State Street holds Shakespeare preview

Historian Dr. Dan Groebner speaks about the history of speakeasies

Dan Groebner displays a picture showing the road the Nightingale speakeasy is on.

NEW ULM– State Street Theatre held an introduction of their upcoming Shakespeare comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” on Tuesday.

The event titled “Shakespeare Light” featured discussions from local historian Dr. Dan Groebner and Theatre Professor Larry Czer, as well as a performance from the play’s Balthazar Band.

Groebner spoke about the history of speakeasies and their influence in New Ulm. This provided vital visuals for the play, which has been changed to take place in a 1920’s speakeasy.

The main speakeasy in the New Ulm area was the Nightingale. Groebner said it was deliberately far away from town so people could sneak away and enjoy what they wanted. It was also made to look disheveled and unappealing on the outside. Both of these features helped avoid unwanted attention from local authorities. This exterior hid what the Nightingale had to offer.

“People who remembered this said that it was beautiful inside. There was a shiny mirror globe that they shined a light on and it would rotate and sparkle.” Groebner said. “There was an escape door that you could run out and go down to the river and run away in case somebody was looking for you that you didn’t want to find you.”

Michael and Christina Koester give some final details to end the event. Christina is holding her infant daughter Willa, who she was pregnant with when the Koesters agreed to co-direct Much Ado About Nothing.

Czer gave an educational talk on Shakespeare. He started by discussing what entertainment was like during Shakespeare’s time. Shakespeare was forced to hold his plays outside of London due to authority in the late 1500’s.

“All forms of entertainment took place on the south bank of the Thames River which was outside the purview of central London and the Puritan Lord Mayor of London who didn’t like plays or entertainment.” Czer said.

He then discussed the main themes of Much Ado About Nothing. The main theme is love and courtship, as the romantic comedy revolves around two couples. One couple is madly in love, and the other couple has to be convinced that they love each other. Czer said this theme is common in Shakespeare’s plays.

A partial version of the Balthazar Band played a short number. They were accompanied by co-director Michael Koester, who provided vocals.

Co-directors Michael and Christina Koester ended the event by remarking how the play came to them and the help they had.

“When we were first approached to do this show, she was eight months pregnant. We thought about it and decided, why not?” Michael said. “I take this opportunity to thank our wonderful cast. They had wonderful ideas and from start to finish, this production is completely a group effort.”

Audience member Jodi Marti shared her experience of the event. “It was very interesting. The music was fabulous and the history was excellent.” Marti said.


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