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Zombies meet the Bard: Masquers to present ‘Shakespeare Ate My Brain’

by CASEY MCCARTHY
Staff Writer | August 13, 2021 1:03 AM

SOAP LAKE — When it comes to entertainment, some people prefer the historically renowned works of William Shakespeare, while others may prefer stories of werewolves, vampires and even zombies. But what if someone could have both?

With “Shakespeare Ate My Brain,” the new show opening at Masquers Theater at 322 Main Ave. E. in Soap Lake this evening, people won’t have to choose between the two in director Marla Allsopp’s rendition of Jeffery Goodson’s and Brian Shay’s play. After the troupe reopened its doors to audiences earlier this summer with “Present Laughter,” “Shakespeare Ate My Brain” welcomes back people for an off-season production this weekend.

Shows will be Friday and Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. from Aug. 13 through 29. Tickets can be purchased in the lobby and the theater is open to full capacity under the current state COVID guidelines, and will adjust accordingly to any changes in those guidelines.

Director Marla Allsopp said Masquers put out a call to its community after “Present Laughter” to see if anyone wanted an out-of -season show. She said she had a few shows in mind, but ultimately landed on “Shakespeare Ate My Brain” due to having a small group who might be easier to assemble in the summer when casting can be difficult.

Allsopp has been involved with Masquers Theater since about 2018, performing in her third show at the Soap Lake theater earlier this summer with “Present Laughter.” Allsopp has also been the drama club director at Ephrata High School for the past five years, but said “Shakespeare Ate My Brain” will be her first chance to direct any shows outside of the high school program.

Allsopp said it’s been different, but fun, dealing with adult actors instead of the “newbies” she coordinates for high school productions.

“Everyone here that I’m directing in this show has done this before, so it’s actually an opportunity to relax on the structure part and have more of enjoying watching them unfold into their characters and into the show,” Allsopp said.

With “Shakespeare Ate My Brain,” Allsopp said patrons will witness the story of Dr. Marlowe-Thomas, who is assured William Shakespeare used zombies in his productions based on an old manuscript of “Macbeth” that she’s found. The audience will watch Marlowe-Thomas in her wacky efforts to assemble a zombie theater company with the help of renowned, yet long-since dead actors, Richard Burbage and Eddie Booth.

Allsopp said it’s a pretty ridiculous play full of fun, hilarious antics and should be an amusing outlet to welcome people back into the theater.

“Of course, there are zombies, but they’re not your ‘Walking Dead’ zombies, they’re educated and artsy-fartsy zombies,” Allsopp said.

Bohica B. has been performing at Masquers Theater for the past five or six years, typically about one show a year. As Dr. Marlowe-Thomas, B. said audiences can expect a character who’s “mad as a hatter” pretty much the entire time, but also right.

B. said performing this summer has been great and can be addictive like a drug.

“It’s my hobby, I’ve been doing it my whole life,” B. said. “When they said they needed somebody, I thought maybe I really don’t want to do that show, but I need to get back out there.”

Miles Plagerman plays the role of Ian in his first play at Masquers, a character he referred to as a fun-loving, idiot goof. Plagerman said coming from Ephrata High School where he’s performed the last few years to the local theater has been exciting and a great chance to learn.

Having his former drama director, Marla Allsopp, there is a nice comfort to have too, he said.

“It’s pretty intimidating walking in, especially having the experience that I have,” Plagerman said. “Having someone I know not only being there, but also welcoming me in, it’s a really nice feeling and I felt that from everyone here.”

One of the best parts about “Shakespeare Ate My Brain” is a lot of the jokes people might not get the first time around will only build and get funnier as the show goes on, he said.

Chris Longstreet has been performing on and off at Masquers for about 13 years and will play Eddie Booth tonight; the older, less fanatical, more talented brother of John Wilkes Booth.

Longstreet said he started with Masquers when he came with his wife to an audition for a musical and wound up in the cast. The creative release and the collaboration have been some of his favorite parts of the theater.

“It’s all about collaboration, I love that process,” Longstreet said. “Here, with a smaller cast of four, we grow and develop in our characters and comfort level, it’s fun to watch them grow and meld.”

Abby Burlingame, a park ranger in the Grand Coulee area, will play the role of Richard Burbage. Burlingame has made it a mission to perform on stage wherever she’s stationed as a ranger.

Allsopp said it’s fun getting new ideas and learning new things; reinvigorating her excitement for theater before the high school year kicks off. After people missed out on music, arts and theater for about a year and a half due to the pandemic, she said it’s nice for everyone’s mental health to have that outlet again.

“When you’re in the theater, you share a moment in time with the group,” she said. “It’ll never be the same audience; it’ll never be the same cast again; it’s really a unique opportunity to be present and connected with this group of people and share this really cool time together.”

Casey McCarthy can be reached via email at cmccarthy@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Left to right, Bohica B. and Miles Plagerman react on stage Aug. 5 during a dress rehearsal for “Shakespeare Ate My Brain.”

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Director Marla Allsopp gives instructions to her actors on stage during a rehearsal Aug. 5 for “Shakespeare Ate My Brain” at Masquers Theater in Soap Lake.

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Casey McCarthy/Columbia Basin Herald

Left to right, Bohica B. and Miles Plagerman run through a scene on stage at Masquers Theater in Soap Lake Aug. 5 in preparation for the premiere of “Shakespeare Ate My Brain” tonight.