When William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage,” he couldn’t have had a moving train in mind, but that’s exactly where scenes from his plays will appear this summer.
Students from UNM’s College of Fine Arts teamed up with the New Mexico Rail Runner to increase weekend ridership while bringing Shakespeare to new audiences. The group performs every Saturday, June-August, on northbound trains departing downtown Albuquerque at 2:38 p.m. and southbound trains departing the Santa Fe depot at 4:32 p.m.
Shakespeare on the Rail is site-specific theatre, which “takes place in nontraditional theatre spaces like the Rail Runner,” said Lauren Albonico, director and graduate student in theatre education and outreach at UNM.
“The scenes fit within the context of a train, so we’ve taken the scenes out of the context of their original plays and the characters are like the characters you would encounter on the Rail Runner,” she said. “We use the poles, and you use every little nook and cranny that is specific to whatever site it is. You take full advantage of all that.”
The first cast, performing love scenes from “As You Like It,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Romeo and Juliet,” are theatre majors Nick Salyer, Andrew Leith and Julia Harris and art studio major Christina Slyter. Sarah White, theatre education and outreach, is assistant director and Nicee Brown, theatre, is stage manager.
“To be the first team to bring it to Albuquerque is really spectacular,” White said.
Cast and crew say the contemporary setting makes Shakespeare’s verse more accessible. “It’s still in this Shakespearean world, but it’s set on the train, so it’s modern and fun,” Harris said.
The close quarters on the Rail Runner also affect player-audience interaction. “You feel like you’re one with the character because you’re so close to them,” White said. “You can understand the language because you’re in it with them.”
“Instead of having that fourth wall between you and the audience of a traditional theatre, the fourth wall becomes malleable,” Leith said. “It’s going to be interesting, the interaction with people who may or may not know that we’re acting out Shakespeare on the train.”
In July performances feature comedic scenes and in August scenes of treachery and deceit. Performances are free with train fare on the first floor of the Rail Runner’s “Bard Car,” behind the locomotive. The project is funded by UNM’s Department of Theatre and Dance.