This forms part of an occasional series, Acrosss the Pond, looking at the work of theatre companies in the USA.
We reached out to the wonderfully-named Frog & Peach Theatre Company (the name is indeed from one of the UK’s best comedic exports).
They are currently presenting their production of As You Like It in New York (until 23 October).
Co-founded by members of The Actors Studio to make Shakespeare more accessible to audiences, Frog & Peach Theatre Company attracts audiences from all the boroughs in New York.
Read on to find out more about them, and don’t forget to visit their website.
The Frog & Peach Theatre Company in New York has a great name. I have to ask, where did the inspiration come from?
It was a cold day in January, 1995. I was on the 1 train, hurrying from work to a rehearsal. Our non-profit docs were due for submission but we still didn’t have a name for the company-we wanted something playful but sinister, and were just about out of ideas.
To calm down, I turned to The NY Times obituary page. To my sorrow, I saw that Peter Cook (Dudley Moore’s long time partner in comedy) had passed away – but then I remembered a sketch they did about a restaurant with an extremely limited menu. And Frog & Peach was born.
Your current production is As You Like It, described as a comedy blockbuster with a revolutionary ensemble. Tell us more!
After what the world’s been through the last few years, we wanted to gift our city with a really funny show.
The As You Like It cast are some of the best comic performers you’ll find in NYC. And with its themes of isolation, loneliness, family battles, and reunion, As You Like It is especially timely, and for many, very moving.
We expected audience to laugh. We didn’t expect them to cry at the same time! But that is what’s happening. Plus it’s very romantic. That a political coup is part of the plot—talk about Shakespeare’s relevance!
You juggle Shakespeare (and not always the usual titles) with children’s theatre. What’s been your favourite show to do?
Frog & Peach has one of the most diverse audiences to be found anywhere. Part of the reason, I think, is that every person on stage and backstage is at heart a juvenile delinquent. We have no patience for pretension or pomposity.
We DO respect the language of the plays, and the extraordinary strength of the people we portray. Our productions of Shakespeare’s plays treat adults like children, and Tinkerbell Theatre treats children like adults.
Can UK folks experience any of your work e.g. in digital format / is that something you would ever consider doing?
When the whole world locked down, we asked really smart people – mental health experts, public health historians, etc – how we could best use our resources to serve.
I’m pleased to say Tinkerbell Online has made well over a million people laugh out loud.
Think of Mel Brooks taking over Sesame Street, featuring an ill-tempered Snow White (Alyssa Diamond, our Celia in AYLI), a seductive Evil Queen with a carnival background (Amy Frances Quint, our Rosalind), a romantically adventurous Nana (Vivien Landau-AYLI’s Queen Senior), an over-worked radio therapist Dr Beary Gordy (Ty-Quan Payne, Silvius in AYLI), and a particularly dim Prince Charming (Jonathan Reed Wexler, our Jaques).
You can view each episode here: https://youtube.com/channel/UC5tEiRvnYT0J3DSa-Kx_4OA
Why is Shakespeare still so powerful with theatre companies large and small, and across all language and cultural barriers?
From cave paintings to Amazon, I think most people want to see or hear stories about people like themselves; folks they recognize, who experience the same kind of conflicts they do.
It’s hard to find characters, classical or contemporary, who better express the joy & pain of being a human being than Shakespeare’s men and women.
We think the delight and nourishment of Shakespeare‘s plays belong to everybody, and it’s our mission to serve.
My grateful thanks to all at the Frog & Peach.
Image credit: Maria Baranova