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Betty Stone: Let me do a favor for you

 

Betty Stone

 

It has been about 20 years, I am ashamed to admit, since I have attended a production at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in nearby Montgomery. It had been something we had enjoyed even before it was moved to its beautiful location just a pleasant three hours'' drive east of here. 

 

I was lured back last weekend by the prospect of seeing "Bear Country," a play about Paul "Bear" Bryant, legendary football coach at the University of Alabama. After all, many Columbians and their neighbors consider themselves citizens of "Bear Country." 

 

The play did not disappoint. You would recognize some of the coach''s famous quotes, and if you are a football enthusiast, you would recognize some of the other characters mentioned or on stage. Even I, always just on the periphery of fans, wanted to see some of the scenes of his career, especially the fight with the bear that earned him his nickname. I was disappointed, after all, that they did not show that; there was no bear actor. There was, however, a troupe of excellent actors who did a great job with the play. 

 

Come to think of it, I have never seen a bad performance at the festival, whether Shakespearian or other. I have been privileged to see Shakespearian performances at both Stratford and at the newly-recreated replica of the Globe Theatre in London, where the bard''s plays were seen by Elizabethan audiences and in which Shakespeare himself often acted in supporting roles. You know those performances are some of the best the stage has to offer, and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival is right up there with the very best. 

 

I am not a devoted Shakespeare fan. I never took a course on Shakespeare. Shakespearean English impedes me. I believe that for many, if not most, of us what it takes to enjoy Shakespeare is either an incredible teacher or an excellent performance.  

 

I first saw "King Lear" at the ASF, and it blew me away. When I attended "Hamlet" there, I sat next to a group of teenagers who were seeing the play for their third or fourth times. That is not like most teenagers I have known! 

 

The auditorium was full last weekend, not many empty seats. On this occasion many of them were wearing their Crimson Tide T-shirts! My favor to you is to urge you to take advantage of this international treasure just a short distance over the state line. 

 

The ASF is the sixth largest Shakespeare festival in the world and attracts more than 300,000 annual visitors from all 50 states and over 60 countries. It operates year-round and produces 10 world-class productions each year. If you wish, you can arrange a backstage tour. You can contact them by phone at 334-271-5313, fax 334-271-5348, or e-mail, sfrye@asf.net. Do yourself a favor. 

 

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.

 

Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.

 

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