I attended the Conroe Shakespeare Festival today with two of my siblings and we really enjoyed it. Here is a list of what I liked about the festival and a list of what I think can be improved.
It’s free! The atmosphere was small, friendly, casual, and interactive. A member of the Texas Renaissance Festival gave a group class on stage sword combat to all the kids present.
Everything was well organized and centrally located and you didn’t have to worry about missing something while you were shopping the vendor booths. One vendor was selling Shakespeare unit study resources.
The play’s actors were skillful enough to be entertaining. The perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon on the lawn in 70° spring weather.
Two funny tidbits:
When Benvolio implored Romeo to “explore other beauties,” Romeo scanned the crowd in response, then pointed to me and grinned before resuming his moody ranting. A friend of mine who met us there turned around, “did he just?” Little brother stiffened, “He. Did. Not.” Little sister laughed.
The other funny thing that happened was right at the climax of the play when the parents discover their dead children, a train thundered through Conroe, drowning out everybody’s lines. All the actors just stood awkwardly, frozen in their various postures of grief, for the train to pass. It was hilarious!
There’s a great coffee shop right across the street.
We got a back stage tour of Owen Theatre and info on the local events I had no idea were available.
There were not enough people in period costume, or period music played, or any period food available, and all but one of the vendors was off-topic. (They were impressive vendors but had nothing to do with Shakespeare.)
The festival has a lot of potential but to succeed, period costumes are a must for every employee (the Texas Renaissance member teaching stage combat was wearing a Batman t-shirt and jeans!), visitors should be greeted with period music as soon as they open their car doors, period food should be for sale, and only vendors with a direct tie to Shakespeare, the Elizabethan Era, theater production, or the Renaissance should be permitted (one lady was selling homemade pies and cookies and iced “to be or not to be” on one and called it “Shakespeare-themed.” 🤦🏼♀️)
The Texporium trailer was one of our favorite booths, the husband and wife who ran it were so sweet and their steampunk costumes were terrific, but even they were out of place. They belonged at a Dickens festival, not a Shakespeare festival.
This was only the third year for this festival so I hope to see it improve next year! They are off to a great start!