Chris Cotterman as Mark Antony and Valerie Dowdle as Cleopatra

Saturday night the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory kicked off its 2017 season with a historic production of Antony and Cleopatra performed in Original Pronunciation (OP). This production replicated what it sounded like for Shakespeare’s audiences when it was first performed in the early 1600s. This was the very first time that a modern audience had the opportunity to hear Antony and Cleopatra spoken that way in 400 years. In the epic love tale of Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare uses his mastery of language and wordplay to explore themes of love, honor, and power.

OP is not hard to understand. Most of the words will be familiar to a modern ear and when they are not one can grasp the gist of what is being conveyed by the acting and demeanor in which a phrase was uttered. Valerie Dowdle was completely charming as Cleopatra. Her sarcastic eye rolls and witty attitude was absolutely delightful. During Shakespeare’s time, actors entertained audiences with popular songs of the day and in keeping with this tradition BSF actors performed modern music which was thematically related to the show prior to the performance and during the much-needed intermission. The Great Hall at St. Mary’s is a beautiful old stone church with huge Gothic stained glass windows, a soaring wood-beam ceiling and wonderful acoustics. It is a lovely setting for a performance, however, it was extremely uncomfortable to sit it traditional wooden church pews for a play that runs over 3 hours.

The idea of attending a Shakespeare play may conjure up ideas of stuffy people sitting around in a very prim atmosphere. Eating and drinking during the performance was not only allowed, it was encouraged as beer, wine, soda and snacks were for sale. Antony and Cleopatra runs from Mar. 31–Apr. 23, 2017. Tickets start at $15 and are available here. Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 4:00 p.m. Pre-show entertainment begins 30 minutes prior to showtime. The BSF offers multiple educational opportunities including Stage Combat Class, Acting Class as well as Shakespeare Summer Camp. For more information visit the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory website.