BUCKHANNON – Upshur Arts Alliance will be hosting a special “Shakespearience” performance Friday night to raise funds in its efforts to step up support for the community art scene.
Founded by Jason Young and Celi Oliveto, the Rustic Mechanicals are the only troupe of actors in West Virginia who perform the works of William Shakespeare and other classical playwrights.
Based out of Clarksburg, the cast will take the stage at the Opera House on Main Street to perform the notable tragedy “Hamlet.”
Adding a modern twist, the Mechanicals will perform the classic tale of “Hamlet,” a tragedy that unweaves the drama of a royal family in which the main character, Hamlet, deals with the death of his father, the King of Denmark, and his mother’s new marriage.
A Rustic Mechanicals press release about the show describes Hamlet’s dilemma: “Struggling to understand his place in a new world order, he faces a stark choice of submitting or raging against the injustice of his new reality. As relevant today as when it was written, Hamlet confronts each of us with the mirror of our own morality in an imperfect world.”
Once Upshur Arts Alliance shared the Rustic Mechanics’ Facebook page with its followers, the Mechanicals approached the Upshur Alliance about interest in Upshur Alliance sponsoring a local event, Elizabeth Spencer, event chair for the group, explained.
“Our group was interested in doing that, and that’s how it got started,” she said.
With the Mechanicals being well-known across the state, Spencer said it has been quite some time since Upshur Art Alliance has hosted an out-of-town group.
“We’re trying to increase our fundraising so we can increase exposure to people in the community and serve a larger role for people in the community,” she said. “Especially since art funding has been cut in schools, it’s more important now than ever to provide art exposure to the community.”
“We love this idea,” said Young, one of the Mechanicals’ founders. “The entire downtown community of Buckhannon has gotten on board with the Arts Alliance and is working together to create an evening where people can come downtown, get a great meal, see a great show, and then have a great beer all while hanging out with some great artists.”
While Upshur Arts Alliance has hosted previous events and fundraisers, Spencer said Friday’s Shakespearience is “unique” from other benefits.
“Because it focuses not only on making money, but also on bringing the art and culture to the community,” she added. “This particular event allows us to bring an art experience to the community and them to take in art and actively be involved and support the arts and taking in the show.”
With each fundraiser, the local nonprofit tries to incorporate art into the event rather than focusing solely on money, Spencer said.
“So, this year it’s Shakespearience, and it’s an opportunity to experience Shakespeare while also getting downtown and enjoying some of Buckhannon’s unique artistic flare,” she said.
The cost of tickets is $12, and they can be purchased at Artistry on Main or at upshurartsalliance.org. Purchased tickets will also serve as a discount card at a variety of participating downtown restaurants.
C.J. Maggie’s will be offering dessert and drinks during the play, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Following the performance, the Mechanicals will do a brief meet-and-greet at the Opera House before heading over to Stone Tower Brews to conclude the evening.
“I think it’s an opportunity not only to stimulate arts and culture, but to stimulate the downtown businesses,” commented Spencer. “In a lot of big cities people will do the dinner and a show kind of thing, and I think there’s no reason that because we’re in Buckhannon, West Virginia that we can’t have the same kind of offering.
“We’re encouraging people to come out and make an evening of it after work and do dinner and a show, and I think it’s even more enticing when we have an interesting group that we don’t always get here in Buckhannon,” she added.
As a volunteer-run nonprofit organization, all funds raised go directly to the alliance’s umbrella groups – the Augusta Youth Ballet Company, the Buckhannon Chamber Orchestra, the Buckhannon Choral Society, Buckhannon Community Theatre and Artistry on Main.
“It as well goes to help support mini-grants for scholarships [and] support student scholarships each year,” Spencer said. “We usually select two and those students are given a grant for furthering their education in the arts and they’re students who come from Buckhannon-Upshur High School.”