Spotlight on Nick Piacente and the Summer Training Institute

Read on to learn all about the assistant director to Julius Caesar and the director of the Summer Training Institute’s Macbeth Project: Nick Piacente.


What is your background with theater?

I have a B.F.A. in Drama from NYU studying specifically at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. I’ve been acting in NY and regionally throughout the U.S. since graduation. My first show in high school was Arsenic and Old Lace and I played Teddy Brewster. It was a play and role that hooked me in for the comedy and huge amount of fun I had. The movie with Cary Grant happened to be one of my favorite movies because I thought the physical comedy was outstanding. Physicality in comedy is what first drew me towards the stage.

I’ve been a part of Vermont Shakespeare Festival for the past 4 years playing various roles such as Ferdinand, Puck, and Romeo for the company. Currently, I teach Movement for Actors at Stella Adler Studio where Jena Necrason (the Artistic Director of VSF) is Head of Movement. I was the assistant director of Julius Caesar and the director of the Summer Training Institute’s Macbeth Project. So at this point in my career, like many other artists, I feel as if I’m becoming a jack of all trades. I’m an actor, a teacher, and a director.

How long has the Summer Training Institute been going on for?

Jena and John have made nurturing and inspiring young artists an essential goal of the company. The Summer Training Institute was launched in 2010 after the company had been going for 5 years. Initially, it was referred to as the “Vermont Shakespeare Intern Program”. The program offered a number of young Vermont students the opportunity to receive professional training by actors in the company in return for working on the production. Classes included Monologue Coaching, Scene Study, Movement, Physical Acting, and Voice and Speech. The program has grown every year and this past season, it became a fully-developed 4 week program featuring daily classes, master classes with company members, positional crew designation based on your preferred area of focus (lights, sound, costumes, props), and a performance of a show created and designed by the interns. This year, it was one-hour production of Macbeth.  

Can you tell us about the curriculum and how you came to plan it?

The curriculum is based off my time as a student and teacher at Stella Adler. I felt it was very important to give the students that joined us the very best professional training we could offer so that could learn more about who they are as a person and as a budding artist. Creating a daily schedule of classes was necessary to deepen the techniques and offer more opportunities for personal exploration. Based off of a conservatory model, each morning would feature two classes (Movement/Acting Technique, Voice and Speech/Text Analysis, Movement and Voice/Business of Acting) and the afternoon would be rehearsal for the “Macbeth Project”. Fridays, would be a master class of Physical Acting or Stage Combat in the morning and Macbeth Project in the afternoon. This would be the flow for  the first two weeks of the program.

At night, the students would watch rehearsal of the main stage production of Julius Caesar. This observation fulfilled a few goals. It gave students a sense of how all these techniques and teachings are applied in the rehearsal room on a professional level, it was an opportunity to watch professional actors work and see the in’s and out’s of creating theatre, and gave them an opportunity to learn about the show they would eventually crew and support for the remaining two weeks. After the first two weeks are finished, the program dives into more hands-on work on the main stage production of Julius Caesar. This is when students really can explore a particular area of theatrical focus: lights, sound, costume, stage management, and run crew. During these last two weeks, class time is limited, but Macbeth Project rehearsal and tech/performance of Julius Caesar are the main focus.

Also, it’s crucial to mention though although this program is extremely beneficial for the actor, it’s a growing place for every type of artist. Our young artists work right beside our designers. If you are interested in costuming, you design clothing for the main show. If you are interested in lights, you might run the light board for every performance. If you are interested in sound design, you might run sound for every performance. Also, these design elements are incorporated into the Macbeth Project, so that everything you learn is applied immediately. The Summer Training Institute is designed to foster any young artists’ desire and even just help you find what that desire is.


Can you tell us about the Macbeth Project?

The Macbeth Project is an opportunity for the young artists of our program to put the skills they have learned in class and developed together over the course of their time with us to actual theatrical application. The script was cut down to a one-hour length.  I wanted our artists to begin to form an artistic process to their work. I wanted our artists to find the joy in Shakespeare and physical theater. I wanted our artists to collaborate to create something meaningful and magical. I believe theatre should be hard and fast. It should hit you in the face. It should rattle you, shock you, and even scare you. It should be a cathartic experience.

As the director, I encouraged our young artists to push the boundaries of their body, voice, and comfort zone to make physical, visceral, fun theatre. I also wanted them to get a sense that powerful theatre can be created with a bunch of voices in a room and one red prop blanket. Which is all we had. One prop. I had people bring in musical instruments from home. We staged it so everyone was onstage the whole time. There was singing, rapping, chanting, lifts, dancing, and creative movement pieces. My background is as a mover. So I wanted this piece to move and take the audience on a ride. I believe everyone had a great and hopefully, memorable experience.

What have you enjoyed most about teaching the program?

Human beings fascinate me. They surprise me every day. We can surprise ourselves. It’s why I love being a teacher. Seeing a person realize something about their body or their voice or that they can do something they never thought they could…is magical. It’s amazing. I felt like by the end of the 4 week program, I saw 13 different people. Also, the relationships you form truly are life-changing. I do not doubt that for some of our younger artists, this will be their life-changing theatrical experience. This will be their Arsenic and Old Lace.

What criteria did you use to select applicants for the Summer Training Institute?

We received a ton of applications this year. We accepted 13 high school and college students from all over the country into the Training Institute this summer. I’m attracted to an applicant that is hard-working, adventurous, has a love of Shakespeare, a fun attitude, and has a desire to have a challenging but rewarding 4-week experience. And to be honest, you can see all that in the first second they walk in the room or by their voice on the phone. Do you want it? If you do and you know you do, there is a good chance we want you too.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I cannot speak highly enough about what I learn from the applicants we have every year. It’s a learning process for everyone involved at VSF. I hope I can continue the amazing relationships I’ve formed with each and every one of them. And VSF, we will always be by their side. For recommendations, life advice, or a simple hello. We are committed to establishing VSF as a family. And if you are a part of our program, you are always a part of that family.


What to Bring For Your Shakespearean Picnic in the Park

Spring scenery Shelburne Museum Shelburne, Vermont

Planning to see Julius Caesar outdoors at the Shelburne Museum tonight or this weekend? Don’t forget to bring your picnic along! The shows start at 6pm, but the lawn opens at 5pm, so feel free to set up a blanket, some chairs, or even have a picnic! We’ve got some Shakespearian inspired ideas for you.

Like most people, when we think about Shakespeare we think about wine. And not just any wine, a nice bottle of Merlot. Merlot is a sweet and fruity wine that is easy to sip on while snacking on some other goodies.

Why not pair that wine with some delectable cheese and crackers? We recommend brie and rosemary crackers to add some sophistication to your picnic experience. Since we are trying to hit all of the food groups, we can’t forget about the fruit! (and no, wine does not count as a fruit). We suggest freezing some grapes to bring along as a tasty and refreshing snack. They can also double as ice cubes for wine!

Now for the meat and bones of the picnic. Bring along some chicken wings! And don’t just settle for any ol’ chicken wings, we recommend trying the balsamic glazed chicken wings recipe from Robert Irvine. Or stop by the famous Harrington’s on Shelburne Road across from the museum to pick up some yummy sandwiches and treats.                                                                                     
We hope you’ll join us at the Shelburne Museum this Thursday through Saturday for an unforgettable night of Shakespeare!

Spotlight on Artistic Direction with Jena Necrason


Jena Necrason, along with her husband John, founded the Vermont Shakespeare Festival in 2005. Ever since then they’ve brought Shakespeare to life with intelligence, wit and power-packed action!  Read on to learn more about Jena Necrason and her artistic choices in directing this year’s production, Julius Caesar. 

Can you tell me a bit about your history with theater?                                                                  

I went to college and got a BFA in dance performance. Then when I moved to New York I started studying acting very seriously and I did that for a number of years. I  lived in New York for 20 years working as a dancer,  actor and movement teacher. I did a lot of Shakespeare. In 1997 I joined the faculty at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, where I continue to teach and now serve as the Head of Movement.

Why start a Shakespeare Festival in Vermont?                                                                            

There’s an amazing precedent all around the country for Shakespeare Festivals in almost every state. These festivals have a huge economic and cultural impact on their communities. Vermont is a state with tons of arts and culture and a lot of supporters of the arts, and we found that people really loved us doing outdoor Shakespeare. When we started we kept hearing “Please do more!” They kept coming back every year and wanting more. Also doing Shakespeare in the park in Vermont is really a beautiful thing because it is such a lush environment. It gives the artists a lot to work with and respond to when we perform Shakespeare outside in the open air.

Why this play, Julius Caesar? What interests you about it?                                                 

Julius Caesar is an incredible play; it’s a challenging play. It’s only the second tragedy that we’ve done and it’s based on a historical event that everyone knows. We chose the play about a year ago because 2016 is an election year and this is a play about politics and power. It’s a play about the nature of honor and virtue and nobility, and those things being at odds with moral ambiguity in the political arena. We thought it would be very relevant and connected to the landscape of what’s happening in our world right now, with how divided and chaotic everything is.

What scene are you most excited to work on from Julius Caesar?                              

Probably the “big event” in the senate. My husband John is the fight director on the show and he’s working with a room full of actors and weapons. The scene itself is dark. It’s disturbing. It’s challenging for the actors because there are a lot of technical aspects that go into staging violence of any kind. It requires specificity in the details of every single movement, breath, rhythm, and step that is happening.

Why did you decide to cast female actors in male roles?                                                              

We have cast female actors in the roles of Brutus, who is the leader of the conspirators, Mark Antony, who is the second in command to Julius Caesar, and in the role of Octavius Caesar who is Julius Caesar’s nephew who eventually becomes one of the triumvirate ruling Rome after Caesar’s death. I think it’s important to cast females in male roles because when you look at the cast of characters for a Shakespeare play, generally it’s about a 10 to 1 ratio in opportunities for males actors to female actors. We’re not the only theater company who has made this choice. A lot of companies and theatre directors have been focusing on gender blind or gender conscious casting, particularly with Shakespeare.  So for me it was about giving more opportunities to female actors. In this production the females cast in these males roles are playing male characters. We haven’t changed the gender of the character, so we’ll see how the audience reacts to that. This is a chance for these female actors to play a character they’d normally not get to work on, and tackle lead roles that are usually not available to them.  

Is this play appropriate for kids?                                                                                                        

We’re recommending it’s for children 10 and over because there’s violence, and there’s blood, and parents have to make that decision for themselves. We always have a child friendly synopsis of the play available at the box office. I think if parents wanted to bring children that are younger they will just have to be aware of the violence and explain that it’s pretend.

What advice do you have for students who want to get involved in theater?

I would say get involved in a really great training program, study, study, study, really learn the craft of acting and get a solid foundation for your passion. I think going into the world of theater in any capacity- whether it’s as a performer, a technician, a designer, or the business side of making theater like producing, marketing, company management, or stage management- is a great career choice. There are tons of opportunities, but it’s definitely competitive and you have to work extremely hard to get work.  You need really good training and confidence. You have to be confident in yourself and who you are. You have to believe that you have something to offer and that you have something to say as an artist.

Come see Julius Caesar outdoors this weekend at the Shelburne Musuem, July 28-30th at 6pm! The indoor showings will be held at the Royall Tyler Theater at the Unviersity of Vermont August 5th and 6th at 7:30pm, as well as August 7th at 2pm. 

Our Five Favorite Shakespeare Inspired Cocktails

After scouring the internet and doing some trial and error, here are our five favorite Shakespeare inspired cocktails!


Pink Lady Macbeth

2 oz of gin

1 ½ oz of Calvados

1 oz of lemon juice

One egg white (optional)



Juliet’s Emoji-to

2 tablespoons chopped mint leavesMojito

1 ½ tablespoons sugar

5 fresh cherries, pitted

½ oz lime, cut into four pieces

2 oz white rum

Splash of seltzer

Lime wedge


Taming of the Shrewdriverscrewdriver

1 ½ oz tablespoons sugar

1 ½ oz limoncello

1 ½ oz lemon-flavored vodka

5 ounces fresh orange juice

4-6 dashes grapefruit or lemon bitters

Lemon wedge and sliceenhanced-25786-1399976064-1


Puck’s Fizz

1 oz of cherry liqueur

1 ½ oz of peach puree

¾ oz of gin

Topped up with champagne or prosecco


Much A-Woo About Nothingabsolut-woo-tan-cran-300x40

1 ½ oz of vodka

1 ½ oz peach schnapps

2 oz of cranberry juice

A dash of lime juice


Spotlight on Costume Design with Becky


[Costume Designer Becky Bodurtha shows intern Lucie Alden how to create a Roman helmet.]

Each week leading up to the show, Vermont Shakespeare Festival will highlight one aspect of the production process. This Monday is spotlight on costume design with our talented costume designer Becky Bodurtha and her costume design intern, Lucie Alden.

How long have you been with the Vermont Shakespeare company and involved in theater in general?

I started sewing when I was 5 or 6 and officially started costume design in college. I never knew you could be a costume designer for a living. I always did theater and costume design for theater in high school but I didn’t know you could do it for life. When I figured that out things got a lot easier!

My first season with Vermont Shakespeare was in 2010 with the show Much Ado About Nothing and I’ve been the costume designer ever since then. Next season I designed costumes for The Tempest, then The Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo & Juliet. Some of the The Winter’s Tale and Romeo & Juliet costumes may make an appearance in this summer’s production of Julius Caesar.

What inspired you in these designs?

They’re mostly just simple Roman feel. I wanted to leave the costumes simple and open for the play to live in. I do love texture and pattern, so there’s a lot of stripes in this play because stripes feel organized and powerful. And the roman culture feels ordered and powerful. The costumes are meant to give us context and foundation for the Roman time period. They shouldn’t be too extravagant. In some plays it’s all about the costumes; the costumes are highly important; they carry the play, but in our play the politics and power are more important. I don’t want the costumes to overshadow that.


Some women are playing male roles–did that change how you designed their costumes in any way?

It doesn’t change how I design the costumes. I would still choose the same fabrics if they were men, but it does change how the costumes are built. Women are smaller, so their costumes need to give them the gravitas to stand up against the men on stage and fill the same space.


How practical was ancient Roman clothing? How could they fight when they were in dresses?

It’s totally practical because when they were in battle their tunics were short. Their concept of modesty was totally different from ours so nudity and flashing were not problematic. Women were still very covered though because women were property to the men.

What types of clothes can people buy today to mimic ancient Roman fashion?

Everything. I mean, there are gladiator sandals, Roman-inspired jewelry, cuffs, armbands, tunic dresses. Clothes are really easy these days and a lot of clothes are just basic squares with a hole cut in, which is basically the Roman toga.

Along with Becky is her assistant, one of Vermont Shakespeare Festival’s interns and a student of our summer training institute.

How did you get involved in this production, Lucie?

I started out in 4-H, which was a youth organization that teaches you really good life skills, and sewing is one of the curriculums that is very well developed there. I started when I was 6 or 7. Becky was actually involved in the 4-H program with me. I’ve always done theater too. It was more like a hobby though until I came to university and found costume design as a career. It really clicked with me this past year.

5 Everyday Phrases We Can Thank Shakespeare For

Love Is Blind

Whether you are a fan of Shakespeare or not, his words have forever changed how we talk and write today. Here are just 5 phrases that we can thank Shakespeare for.

“Green-eyed monster”

Meaning: jealously personified.

This one comes from Othello:

“Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” (Act 3, Scene 3)

“In a pickle”

Meaning: in trouble or in a mess

This one comes from The Tempest.

King Alonso asks his jester, Trinculo, “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last” (Act 5, Scene 1)

“Catch a cold”

Meaning: to get sick

This one may come as a surprise but it comes from Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known plays.

“We will have these things set down by lawful counsel, and straight away from Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and starve…” (Act 1, Scene 4)

“Love is blind”

Meaning: if you love someone, you cannot see any faults in that person.

This comes from The Merchant of Venice, when Jessica disguises herself to see her love, Lorenzo.

“But love is blind, and lovers cannot see. The pretty follies that themselves commit…” (Act 2, Scene 6).

“Break the ice”

Meaning: to start the conversation

This one is found in The Taming of the Shrew when one man is convincing another to marry one sister so that he can win over the younger sister. “And if you break the ice, and do this feat, achieve the elder, set the younger free…” (Act 1, Scene 2).


Are there any more that you know of? Let us know in the comments!


5 Famous Films That Were Based on Shakespeare Plays


  1. She’s the Man – Twelfth Night

This interpretation of this famous play is one that will have people on the floor laughing. Amanda Bynes disguises herself as her twin brother so she can play on an all boys soccer team and get revenge on her ex-boyfriend. In the process she ends up falling in love with her teammate and roommate, Channing Tatum. While Amanda Bynes is pretending to be a boy, she catches the eye of the most popular girl in school. This move mirrors the general plot of the play and is quite the laugh!


  1. 10 Things I Hate About You – Taming of the Shrew

Argued one of the best movies of the 90s, Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles put on a great and believable performance of this interpretation of Taming of the Shrew. In the movie the character Cameron falls in love with the most popular girl in school, but she is only allowed to date when her older sister, the shrew, dates someone. The movie follows Heath Ledger’s attempt to tame Julia Stiles and he doesn’t fail at charming the audience.


  1. The Lion King – Hamlet

It is hard to believe that a childhood favorite would be based off of such a dark and daring Shakespeare play. The Lion King follows many key plot points of Hamlet such as the murder of a royal King. Simba’s father is killed when he is very young, and he must then fight to win the throne back from his murderous uncle. Fortunately, this interpretation skips out on the female love interest killing herself. That’s just a little too dark for the youngsters. Watching Mufassa die was enough.


  1. Warm Bodies – Romeo & Juliet

One of the more recent and most interesting interpretations of Romeo and Juliet was this movie that came out in 2013. In the movie, a zombie boy begins to recover his humanity when he meets the daughter of the leader of the zombie resistance. The two teens fall in love, but it is unnatural and they face many obstacles. This movie is both humorous and touching.


  1. Big Business – Comedy of Errors

Here is an older movie for the older crowd that is still timeless. Big Business is a hysterical interpretation of Comedy of Errors. The comedic veterans, Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin play two sets of mismatched twins. They completely capture the need for physical comedy that Shakespeare has taught us is so critical to being a performer.

Introducing Bearius Caesar!

Bearius with medieval bears

Like the Vermont Shakespeare Festival, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has contributed to the rich cultural landscape of the region. Since its humble beginnings in the 1980’s as an open-air market stall in Burlington, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has grown to become one of the largest producers of teddy bears in the world! Each year the Vermont Teddy Bear Company handcrafts nearly 500,000 teddy bears that get delivered to stuffed animal lovers all over the United States and Canada.

The Vermont Teddy Bear Company has brought smiles and joy to all who visit their factory and take home a furry friend, which is why we are so pleased to announce Bearius Caesar, the latest addition to our Shakespearian cast! The Vermont Teddy Bear Company crafted this famous Roman Bear exclusively for us; there isn’t another bear like him in all the world! And the best part about him is that he could be going home with you!


Attend any of our six shows at the Shelburne Museum Circus lawn (July 28th-30th) or the Royall Tyler Theater, (August 5th-7th) to purchase your raffle tickets for a chance to win Bearius Caesar! He will be raffled off after our final show, so purchase your tickets to Julius Caesar here: and enter for your chance to win! You can also check out other adorable teddy bears at the Vermont Teddy Bear Company’s website here:

Expect to see a lot more of Bearius in the coming weeks before the show opens, and look for him alongside our marketing intern at the Burlington farmer’s market this coming Saturday!


Are You Planning a Trip to Vermont to See Us?


If you don’t have lodging, you have lots of choices, from world-class hotels to cozy B&B’s and inns.  Lakeside accommodations range from the Hilton, Hotel Vermont and Courtyard Burlington Harbor to the Inn at Shelburne Farms (  We like the Willard Street Inn ( for an in-town treat with lake views.

Hungry?  Fear not!  The Burlington area is a hub for dining experiences from the highest of high end French cuisine, to fusion to pub food to the Saturday Burlington Farmers Market, where you can sample international cuisines, baked goods, wines, maple products, etc.  Here are some more hot picks:  

Bistro de Margot ( for a hit of classical French cuisine, or dine al fresco at Leunig’s, offering bistro-style cooking. . (Remember, we are only an hour from the border of French Canada!)  If you’ve never had poutine, head over to Nector’s, .

On Church Street, a promenade in downtown Burlington, there are café’s, Asian takeout, Italian, Mexican, pubs, chocolate and ice cream, pizza, as well as great shopping and people watching.

Vermont is famous for its craft breweries, and there are a few in the Burlington area, with tasting rooms, growlers, the works.  In addition to Switchback, Magic Hat, Heady Topper, Queen City Brewing, Fiddle Head and Zero Gravity, there’s Citizen Cider.  Check for tours of local breweries.  If you are a wine aficionado, go to Shelburne Vineyard, and enjoy the tasting room in the Vineyard.

In summer, we head to the beach or the bike path. has info on local beaches.  The Burlington Bike Path hugs the shore for miles.  You can rent bikes and helmets trailside at Local Motion and also pick up maps for biking throughout the area.

For a complete list of everything Burlington go to

Have fun!  Tell us how you liked it!  And we’ll see you at Julius Caesar!
Written by Ruth Wallman




Winter Chemistry


What happens during the winter at our Shakespeare Festival?  A lot!

Currently we are in the middle of auditions for our summer season.  For the past 2 weekends, we have watched many of northern Vermont’s wonderful acting talent do Shakespeare monologues and tackle scenes from Julius Caesar, the play we will be doing this summer. Casting is both exhilirating and exhausting.  Who is right for which role?  Every small choice affecting the whole.  Chemistry is a big part of what we investigate when we cast.  The chemistry between 2 actors can make or break a show.

Winter is the time when we start to shape our vision for the play we will be doing in the summer.  Much time is spent on research and digging into the play. With Shakespeare this means lots of reading and lots of analysis. The sheer amount of material available on each play he wrote is astounding.  Whether it’s historial research, critical analysis or archives, or articles on artistic portrayals of the past, it is a vortex that can be at once inspiring and paralyzing.  And, there is a bit of joy to be had as you dwell in possibility without needing to make concrete decisions (yet!).

In 2 weeks our company will perform as part of the First Folio Festival at Middlebury College.  We will present exerpts of the play WILL, by Vermont-based writer Jon Glascoe.  This project, on which we have been collaborating with Jon since 2013, is very near and dear to our hearts.

A bit about WILL:  Shakespeare’s Richard the Second is a play about the deposition of a monarch. Imagine the fury of Queen Elizabeth 1 when she discovered that this very play was performed for an audience of traitorous soldiers the night before the Essex Rebellion — the famed Earl’s failed attempt, in 1601, to depose his Queen. 

In Middlebury alum Jon Glascoe’s new play “Will”, Shakespeare stands chained in the Tower of London, questioned by Robert Cecil and eventually the Queen herself, to determine his role in the treason. In the course of these examinations, Will’s whole life is revealed, from his humble beginnings in Stratford, to the glory of “Hamlet”, first acted for Elizabeth on the afternoon of Essex’s eventual execution.

We will have one week of rehearsals in which to bring this story to life.  We will have only 2 days in the Dance Theatre at The Mahaney Arts Center in which to find the chemistry of the actors embodying the play as well as how it works in the space.  We have a fantastic group of actors working on this project- come check it out! February 28 at 5pm at Middlebury College.

Winter months give us time to plan, schedule, fund raise, strategize, and organize how it will all work for the summer season.  Marketing initiaves are designed, sponsors are confirmed, travel and housing for artists is booked.  Production meetings with our design team happen. The chemistry of the group of artists creating the perspective- the colors, textures, objects and sounds the audience will experience, begins now. This part of the collaborative process is one of my favorites.  And we are lucky to work with some fiercely talented and innovative designers.

Stay tuned for a Shakespeare Salon in March and a Vermont Shakespeare Festival Pub Crawl in April to celebrate Shakespeare’s birth/death day!

Winter is busy here…

-Jena Necrason, Artistic Director. February 18, 2016