Taffety Punk company member Marcus Kyd’s explanation for how Bootleg Shakespeare began is very simple: “It was initially a dare.”
The way Bootleg Shakespeare works, for the uninitiated, is as follows: Members of Taffety Punk Theatre Company select a Shakespeare play. Willing and able actors get copies of the script a couple months in advance. They are to memorize their lines, but under no circumstances are they to meet with other actors and hold rehearsals. The day of the show, actors assemble (BYO props, DIY costumes) and rehearse all day. That night, ready or not, the show goes on. Tickets are free. This year’s challenge: “Love’s Labour’s Lost.”
At the time Kyd and his band of merry thespian pranksters began the Bootleg series, they wanted to help actor Emery Battis, then a company member at the Shakespeare Theatre Company, achieve a remarkable goal. “He’d live his whole life and had done every single Shakespeare play except for ‘Cymbeline,’ ” Kyd said. The idea was to put together the play in time for Battis to check this last one off his list.
“Getting actors to agree to do it was like pulling teeth,” Kyd said. “They thought we were crazy.” Battis’s health had worsened, and he couldn’t be in the show, but “Cymbeline” was rehearsed and performed in a single day at Round House Theatre. The almost-impossible feat was dedicated to Battis. “And the 14 actors we got in there had the time of their lives,” Kyd said. “It was a terrifying, most exciting day for all of us.”
That was in 2007. Since then, Taffety Punk has put on productions of “Henry VIII,” “Troilus and Cressida,” “The Two Noble Kinsmen” (That was our first light-saber fight onstage,” Kyd said), “King John” and “Hamlet: The Bad-A-- Quarto.”
A prompter is on hand for actors who need to call “line,” although Kyd said this happens less frequently each year. Hard-to-find props (bows and arrows, mannequin parts, a “human” head) will be provided by Taffety Punk’s go-to costume designers, Scott Hammar and Amy Carr-Taylor, who also provide wardrobe guidance. But the sloppy aesthetic is part of the charm. Kyd remembers wearing “moving blankets that were duct-taped together” during “Hamlet.” “We looked like steampunk Martians,” which, in addition to being a nifty visual, is also an awesome band name.
Play selection is driven by a desire to tackle the rarely staged plays in Shakespeare’s canon. “There’s a ton of Shakespeare nerdiness going on in Taffety Punk,” Kyd said. “We’d like to all get our mouths around all of Shakespeare at some point, [so] we’re making the opportunity for ourselves.”
The beauty of the Bootleg, Kyd said, is that “it’s like having an affair with a play. An affair that you don’t regret. That you got away with.”
Monday, 7 p.m. at the Folger Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE, www.taffetypunk.com, 202-355-9441.
Arena Stage’s second season of the Kogod Cradle Series, dedicated to the development of new work, is kicking off with Dog & Pony D.C., whose “A Killing Game” was a hit in last year’s series. This time the company will be workshopping “Toast,” its latest effort. (Don’t worry; audience participation is still very much encouraged.)
Up next will be “The Power of Two,” a cabaret created and performed by Arena regulars Nicholas Rodriguez and Eleasha Gamble and directed by Matthew Gardiner, Signature Theatre’s associate artistic director. The rest of the season includes work by the commedia dell’arte troupe Faction of Fools, a workshop performance by Samuel D. Hunter (an Arena Stage resident playwright), readings and discussions by the six members of the first Playwrights’ Arena playwriting group, and a one-woman show written and performed by Ann Randolph.
The series “is about giving companies and artists time in the Kogod Cradle and giving them the resources to be able to develop new work in front of an audience,” said David Snider, director of artistic programming. “For the audience, it’s about [getting] the opportunity to learn about process [and] about how theater gets made, and how companies and playwrights and directors work.”
Artists and companies that wished to participate submitted proposals in March. Snider said Arena was looking for artists and companies “with projects where it felt like they were at a tipping point . . . that being in the Cradle would help them grow as artists.” He estimates they received 50 applications for the 2013-14 series.
“I think it’s really important for us to serve the local field here,” Snider said. “By having multiple offerings, we demonstrate that here, locally, we have a ton of great work going on.”
In his 12 years in the District, Snider has “seen how the local theater scene has just exploded,” citing companies such as Dog & Pony D.C. and Faction of Fools as part of that expansion. “It’s really important to [Arena], as much as we can, [to] feature these kind of new works so that, locally and nationally, people can see all the exciting growth and process that’s going on in Washington. It’s not just Fringe, it’s not just institutional theater. There’s a continuum of artists feeding the field.”
If you are the sort of person who saw “The Rocky Horror Show” at Studio Theatre and thought, “I wish I could take one of those sex toys home with me!” then, oh man, do I have some news for you.
This Saturday is Studio’s Annual Garage Sale, when the 14th Street theater cleans out its colorful closets and puts the goodies on the sidewalk for you to peruse and purchase. Among the available wares are props and costumes from 2012-13 productions “Invisible Man,” “The Motherf---er with the Hat,” “4000 Miles,” “The Real Thing” and “The Aliens” (no word yet if there will be a ladder, or maybe a ladder, or perhaps a ladder, ladder, ladder) as well as some gems from 2011-12. The event is part of the 14th Annual Dog Days Sidewalk Festival, a two-day shindig for shops and restaurants on 14th and U streets.
Highlights of what’s up for grabs: the apartment set from “4000 Miles”; couch sectionals from “The Real Thing”; an industrial compression champagne corker that almost wound up in “Bachelorette”; a set of eight restaurant chairs from “The Big Meal”; and a giant stuffed teddy bear and some (unused) sex toys from “Rocky Horror.” Prices range from $1 to $1,000, and the sale lasts all day. Prices drop as the day goes on, but the good stuff can go quickly, so play the waiting game at your own risk.
Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW, www.studiotheatre.org, 202-232-7267.