Theater & Dance
"ShakesBEERience: Your Way"

Produced by: ShakesBEERience San Jose
Fundraising party
Directed by: John McLuggage
Running time: 180 minutes
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Where: Café Stritch, 374 South First Street, San Jose, California
Tickets: $85; visit http://shakesbeerience

Tony Lacy-Thompson / Regarding Arts
Director John McCluggage girds his loins to introduce the cast of the ShakesBEERience production of "Richard III" at Café Stritch in San Jose on Monday, April 20, 2015. On the wall to his right is a photograph of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
If beer be the food of Shakespeare, pour on
ShakesBEERience plans an evening of fun to pay for its unusual and fun stagings in San Jose
September 3, 2015

Aiming to bring Shakespeare to the unwashed masses, ShakesBEERience pairs the Bard with drink and food in a casual atmosphere where the actors mingle with the patrons.

"It’s a great way to make Shakespeare’s plays accessible to a wider audience," says director John McLuggage. The idea started on the East Coast with the Seven Stages Shakespeare Company of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Founder Dan Beaulieu asked McLuggage if he would bring the idea to the West Coast, and he thought California would be perfect.

The shows are free at Café Stritch, though the beer is not. Though this be madness, yet there is method in't. The new season kicks off with "The Tempest" in October, and to help offset the costs, the Bard Boozers are putting on a special benefit which promises to be a large amount of fun.

"ShakesBEERience: Your Way" is an interactive evening of themed food and frivolity which includes a three-course meal provided by Cafe Stritch, a game of Shakespeare Bingo, Shakespeare Karaoke, and highlights from some of Shakespeare's most famous scenes. Special guest entertainers include ShakesBEERience company regulars and ComedySportz San Jose presenting an extemporaneous performance aptly named "Much Improv About Nothing," wherein classically trained improvisation masters create an original play in Shakespearean style and language based on suggestions from the audience. It promises to be the funniest play Shakespeare never wrote. And all for the princely sum of $85. A bargain of which even Shylock would approve.

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Whereas many of Shakespeare’s plays require a fairly substantial cast, McLuggage has been careful to choose those that are the most accessible, and can be done with a cast of as little as eight actors. But the actors need to get paid, and there are printing and advertising costs. Donations at the end of the shows are helpful but cannot cover the whole cost, hence this benefit performance.

Every show so far (and this is season three) has played to a packed house, and I had the pleasure of seeing and reviewing "Richard III" in April. Initially the audience consisted of die-hard theater fans and San Jose Repertory subscribers. But soon their friends started coming, and their friends. A good sign now is that the bar staff fight to work the show nights.

Kings and queens, princes and princesses, heroes and villains, some odd characters and some rather strange language. But great stories, and memorable phrases and soliloquies. More movies have been based on Shakespeare’s stories than you could shake a sword at, and he is as relevant today as he was 400 years ago. By pairing his plays with beer and food, the folks at ShakesBEERience have created a fun night out where you might discover a new appreciation for Will’s Works, and at the very least, you’ll impress your date.

A great way to ensure that these entertaining evenings continue — regardless of the height of your brow — would be to forego your Starbucks lattes for a few days and instead spend the money on a pair of tickets to ShakeBEERience: Your Way. Aye, for "The play’s the thing."

Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at

Condardo, Marx
Tony Lacy-Thompson / Regarding Arts
Kevin Condardo, left, script in hand, as Richard the Third, and Josh Marx, center, further back, script in hand, as Richmond, in the ShakesBEERience production of "Richard III" at Café Stritch in San Jose on Monday, April 20, 2015.