Actors’ Shakespeare Project presents The Bomb-itty of Errors, Free, at the Arnold Arboretum, June 12, 5-6:30pm

There’s a line late in William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors that speaks eloquently to how our society might move forward.

We came into the world like brother and brother,

And now let’s go hand in hand, not one before another.

Comedy of Errors, William Shakespeare, Dromio of Ephesus (Act 5, Scene 1)

Perhaps, we might say sibling to sibling, or human to human to be inclusive, but the notion of joining as equals and continuing together hand-in-hand is an admirable goal. This newest collaboration between the Arnold Arboretum and Actors’ Shakespeare Project (ASP), The Bomb-itty of Errors, is an energized and joyous production that we hope will bring a wide community together on the common ground of the Arboretum landscape.

Mistaken identity is the theme in The Comedy of Errors and many of Shakespeare’s plays, yet Bomb-itty brings a fresh, urban, sensibility to the proceedings. The ASP/Arboretum partnership brings this free production to our Hunnewell Building lawn featuring four actors traversing a multitude of rolls. The bard’s words sing, literally, through the rhythmic and rhyming speech of rap—chanted beats, usually in 4/4 time. Shakespeare’s own signature beat in iambic pentameter—ten syllables in a specific pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable—finds a worthy, contemporary alliance with this play by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum, Jeffrey Qaiyum, and Erik Weiner.

On June 12, come listen in as Shakespeare’s words take on a new spark and sizzle, kindling a flame to bring actors and audience together in nature. Bring your dancing shoes and enjoy an evening of music and laughter.

…Now let’s go bust some rhymes, tour about the land/

Maybe start a band/

And enter a new life hand in hand.

Dromios, The Bomb-itty of Errors, by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum, Jeffrey Qaiyum, and Erik Weiner

Lead and I will follow, my newfound brother/

Nay, pound for pound, not one before the other.

Antipholi, The Bomb-itty of Errors, by Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory J. Qaiyum, Jeffrey Qaiyum, and Erik Weiner

During a virtual interview, several ASP actors and staff articulated how they thought their role would be informed by performing in the open air of the Arnold Arboretum:

Chris Edwards, Director and Producer: “Performing heightened language in the open air is a treat.  Shakespeare was written to be performed outside. Hip-Hop was born out of block parties in the Bronx and Queens. Both genres are communal events that put the focus on language and the talent of the performer in the natural world. There is always palpable energy in the air with people who have come to experience something together. Very exciting.”

Victoria Omoregie, Actor, plays Antipholus of Ephesus (and multiple other characters): I think that [performing outdoors] will inform an audience by placing them in the exact same world as the characters they will be watching in the show. Both Shakespeare and Hip-Hop gathered people together to enjoy listening to language and stories, and the play being performed in the Arboretum will only heighten the experience. It will almost feel like a block [party], but in nature. For people who have no knowledge of Shakespeare or affinity for Hip-Hop, this will be an amazing performance that will expose them to a new world.

Steve Viera, Production Manager: While bringing all the elements of this production to the Arboretum will certainly present its challenges, I hope that it will give the show an opportunity to live and breathe outside the walls of a theater. Performing outdoors on the lawn will bring a myriad of elements we have yet to experience with the piece: the sounds of nature (and perhaps traffic), the smell of grass, natural sunlight. We are excited to embrace these new elements and explore what new life they might bring to the performance.

Anderson Stinson, III, actor, plays Antipholus of Syracuse: I think the most special part of this piece is the music. Even if you don’t really know or care about Shakespeare, or even theater, the music alone turns an old play into an interactive concert where you can vibe along, laugh with us, and have fun. Being in an open space will really allow us to dive into that theatrical concert atmosphere where you won’t be able to tell if you’re watching a funny Hip-Hop play or an inventive rap concert!

Mara Sidmore, Producer: At ASP, we don’t really believe in a fourth wall (space which separates a performer or performance from an audience). We believe in intimate productions and real engagement with, and among, the audience. What I have noticed watching audiences so far with this piece is that they really want to engage with the artists: there is call and response, there is lots of laughter, and definitely the chance to respond to the rhythms and beats! I hope people will feel more free on the lawn to get up and move. I don’t think the enjoyment of this piece requires knowledge of Shakespeare or knowledge of Hip-Hop; it just requires a willingness to have a good time together with a cross-section of Boston audiences. It has the potential to be an incredibly community-building piece, reflecting the partnership of ASP and the Arboretum, appealing to those who love Shakespeare but also those who love a fun outdoor summer activity.

See The Bomb-itty of Errors at the Arboretum for your first time or second. The play runs through June 26 at Actors’ Shakespeare Project’s Charlestown Working Theatre.