To change, perchance to grow

New World Theatre Project opens 2014 season with a new name and Shakespeare with a Newfoundland accent

Published on July 4, 2014

Shakespeare’s works are nothing to be afraid of, says Danielle Irvine, but she understands if you haven’t read any of them since you did “Hamlet” in high school.

An expert in professional classical theatre, she has realized that people are often intimidated by the Bard. Maybe it’s all the “thees” and “thous” that are off-putting, or maybe it’s the tights, but Irvine’s here to tell you the writing is funny, human and relevant, even 400 years after it was written.

Irvine is the new artistic director for Perchance Theatre, formerly known as New World Theatre Project, based in Cupids.

Established in 2010 as part of the Cupids 400 celebrations, the theatre company boasts a true Elizabethan-style stage, built from local wood and enclosed with sail canvas, and specializes in exploring Shakespeare with local accents.

“It’s becoming more and more recognized that what we speak here, our accent, our dialect, our culture, is very close to original pronunciation for Shakespeare,” Irvine says. “We’re embracing that, and pushing it further.”

The rebranding came about as part of a new marketing campaign with the goal to promote the Conception Bay North theatre company, for one, and to make Shakespeare more accessible to the masses.

The new name — Perchance — captures the company’s spirit of growth and vision, in an anything-can-happen way, Irvine says.

Perchance Theatre will open its 2014 season July 26 with “Henry V,” a play that also demonstrates the company’s new theme.

“I’m exploring it through the battle of Signal Hill. It’s a true story about King Henry, who’s a fabulous kind, but when he took the throne he was young, and people weren’t sure if he’d be very good. It’s kind of like if our Prince Harry today, running naked through Vegas, became king,” Irvine says. “He takes the throne and really has to prove himself. For me, taking the helm of this company, there’s a personal story there, but it’s also a really great adventure story, and anybody who’s every struggled with big decisions and big projects will certainly respect what Henry’s going through.”

Also on the list for this season is “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” directed by Greg Malone and starring his fellow CODCO alumnus Andy Jones as Falstaff. Both productions will run until Aug. 31.

Perchance will also present Jones’s family puppet show, “The Queen of Paradise Garden” in connection with the Cupids Legacy Centre Aug. 1, 14, 23 and 30, as well as a “Muses and Minstrels” series Sunday evenings from Aug. 10 to 31. The series will feature short shows of an hour or less, including Wonderbolt Circus’s “Upside Clown,” “Girl Meets Tuba,” a comedic mix of theatre and tuba music, and “Shake the Leg,” featuring Cupids Mayor Harold Ackerman, MHA Tom Hedderson and other community leaders.

“It’s a reprise of something we did in the spring which was really successful and fun, where we got local leaders up doing Shakespeare,” Irvine says. “I lured them in first by saying, ‘You don’t have to memorize it, we’ll have a podium and you don’t have to wear a costume,’ and then in the end everyone was wearing tights and they had it memorized.”

For the first time, Perchance Theatre will also offer a summer camp, open to kids between the ages of 12 and 15, with company member Paul Wilson. The week-long camp will conclude with a performance of a shortened version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

For a full schedule and ticket information, visit www.perchance

Twitter: @tara_bradbury