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— After two rounds of scheduled auditions, Shakespeare on the Lake, a proposed free outdoor Shakespeare festival, was unable to cast its 2007 inaugural season.

Artistic Director Jim Hammer of Greers Ferry said the loss of the festival, which was supposed to be held on Greers Ferry Lake at Lacey's Marina in Higden, was a "disappointment."

"We had hoped to make a significantly positive impact on the lake community and its cultural offerings," he said.

An audition was scheduled for March 3, but no one showed up to try out. Hammer had asked for memorized monologues from Shakespeare's work, and he feels that may have been intimidating for some.

"So, I scheduled a second round of auditions on March 31," he said. "This time, we were looking for people to do cold readings from the script."

Only four actors showed up to read for those auditions.

"There are a lot of things I'm capable ofdoing," Hammer said jokingly, "but I can't produce a show without actors."

A Midsummer Night's Dream, the play that was scheduled to open the first season, has 22 characters. Hammer said some of the roles could be double-cast, having one actor playing two or more roles.

"But I couldn't launch an adequate production with so few actors," he said.

"I chose that play in particular because it's a really fun show with great characters and some of Shakespeare's funniest themes. I thought that people who may not be familiar with his work could really grab onto it and have fun with the mayhem."

Hammer said he had received many emails from interested would-be thespians. In fact, one of the four who did show up for the second audition drove all the way from Magnolia.

Shakespeare on the Lake would not have been the only festival to launch this year. Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre will perform its first season at the Reynolds Performance Hall on the University of Central Arkansas campus in Conway.

"I had no idea that they were launching at the same time we would have been," Hammer said. "I talked to the people in charge, and, who knows, maybe we can have some good collaborating opportunities in the future."

It is uncertain whether Shakespeare on the Lake will attempt to launch its opening season next year. Those involved in the project had been working on the possible 2007 season since late July 2006.

"I would like to, but a great deal of time and energy was put into researching the possibilities of this festival, and there are many variables that cannot be controlled," Hammer said.

He added that there was a lot of community interest in seeing the project take flight, particularly financially.

"Community theater is taking place around the lake, in Heber Springs, Fairfield Bay and Clinton, but the talent who are willing to commit time and energy to a project like this is one of those variables.

"You just don't know who will be willing to participate."

Three Rivers, Pages 109 on 06/03/2007

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