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Shakespeare for the Common people

August 3, 2011

Published in Metro

There’s no shame in looking up “All’s Well That Ends Well” on Wikipedia. If you didn’t read it in high school, you may have never heard of it.

“It’s just never done,” says Fred Sullivan, Jr., an actor in the Shakespeare on the Common production that exposes the little-known play free of charge to anyone willing to stake out a spot in the grass.

Scholars often call it a “problem play,” because the story doesn’t fall neatly into a comedy or tragedy category.

“There’s a lot of joy, but there’s also death and dishonor and unrequited love on just about every page. And the characters are just as unlikeable as they are likable,” says Sullivan, who has now performed on the Common five years in a row. In this show he plays “swaggering coward” Parolles, best friend to escapee fiance Bertram.

Performing for huge crowds on an outdoor stage is a different experience from acting in a traditional theater. Crystal-clear enunciation and extra-animated body language are musts, explains Sullivan.

“I find it extremely romantic,” he says. “It’s 6,000 people a night, on blankets, eating salads, listening to the greatest sound system in the world pump Shakespeare into Boston Common. If you get loud enough, your voice bounces off the buildings.”

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