To bebop or not to bebop? That is the question contemplated and resoundingly answered by “The Shakespearean Jazz Show,” which sets the prose and poetry of the Bard to New Orleans-style jazz.
The Nine Worthies bring musical Shakespeare to the stage of the Lupin Theater. (Photo from Alex Ates)
The show, which was created by students attending Emerson College and Berklee College of Music, will be performed as part of the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at the Lupin Theater on the Tulane uptown campus Thursday through Saturday (June 20–22) at 10 p.m. and Sunday (June 23) at 5 p.m.
The artistic mix is not as unlikely as you might think, says Alex Ates, the show's producer and director. "Shakespeare's language is already extremely musical. Marrying Shakespeare with jazz allows those who understand Shakespeare really well to experience the text through a different lens."
For those who aren't familiar with Shakespeare, the show provides an alternative entry point. "I can't tell you how many times I've heard, 'this show tricked me into liking Shakespeare,'" says Ates, a New Orleans native who says he spent "a lot of time in high school exploring the French Quarter and the jazz scene here."
Each performance typically comprises about 13 pieces — sonnets, songs, scenes and monologues from Shakespeare's canon. The players call themselves the Nine Worthies, a nod to the name of a comical troupe appearing in Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost
This week's performances are not only something of a homecoming for Ates but an encore for the show, which appeared last year during the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane.
"Playing in New Orleans is fantastic," says Ates. “Our ensemble — with the exception of myself and our bassist — are from other parts of the country. The time we've spent in New Orleans performing this show has been ranked one of the best moments in all of our lives.”