Shakespeare company took root three years ago

The partnership with a Seattle group has included a youth education component.

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WALLA WALLA - A venue of Walla Walla's own for Shakespeare productions was never part of the plan when a group of founding members planted the seed money three years ago that has sustained the partnership with the Seattle Shakespeare Company, Hosey said.

A little background: Hosey, a Western Washington engineer, had been serving on The Seattle Shakespeare Company board of directors when he and his wife began visiting the Walla Walla area for fun a few years ago. They decided to build a home here. (That's how he came to be acquainted with Allen Ketelsen as one of the power house building co-owners.)

In one of numerous visits with Dennis Ledford of Coldwell Banker First Realtors, the affiliation with Shakespeare came up. Ledford wondered aloud if the Seattle touring group might ever be able to make a stop in Walla Walla.

The question led to a meeting of about 20 or so people in the community to work out the logistics of location, timing, financing and more.

The new partnership also brought a youth education component. Actors from the Seattle company have performed for hundreds of local students in classrooms, demonstrating the relevance of Shakespeare today and even offering a weeklong Shakespeare camp.

Hosey serves as liaison between Walla Walla and the Seattle company. The first performance, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," in 2008 was so well received it was followed the next year by "The Taming of the Shrew." Last year brought "Much Ado About Nothing."

"We didn't really know what it was going to turn into," Hosey said. But he's not surprised that the number of ticketholders has grown from 1,500 the first year to 2,500 last year. After all, the Seattle company's specialty is making Shakespeare accessible to all.

This is accomplished by maintaining the dialogue and lines from the classical plays but placing them into contemporary settings. Hosey said it's not unusual for dialogue to come 10 minutes into the start of the play while the audience is first introduced to the setting and characters before the Elizabethan English for which Shakespeare is renowned begins.

"By that time, people don't have to learn the characters and the plot from the language," he said. "They've already learned it."

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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