William Shakespeare's iconic story Romeo and Juliet, a romantic tragedy featuring two star-crossed lovers from warring families who meet an untimely demise, is about to come alive on the Eastern Shore this weekend. Berlin, MD native Kyler Taustin is returning with his theater company, The Brown Box Theatre Project to perform a series shows of this epic tale all over the Ocean City, MD area.

Romeo and Juliet is the second installment of Shakespeare at the Beach, Brown Box Theatre Project's initiative to bring free performances to the community on an annual basis.

"The goal of this initiative is to offer free outdoor productions of Shakespeare’s plays to communities that may not have access to the arts and to introduce these iconic plays to the non-theatre audience as they are meant to be seen—as live theatre," in the words of Brown Box Theatre.

Last year's inaugural performance of Twelfth Night was met with rave reviews. Following last year's success, Romeo and Juliet will have additional performances in various locations including Snow Hill, MD and Downtown Berlin, MD, and in schools in Worcester and Wicomico counties from September 7th – 15th.

All performances are free, family friendly, and open to the public at large. They are full-scale theatrical productions with professional actors. Expect to be impressed.

The Performance Schedule is as Follows:

September 7
7:30p Arts on the River First Fridays @ Sturgis Park
300 River St., Snow Hill
September 8
1p & 6:30p
Historic St Martin's Church 11413 Worcester Highway, Showell
September 9
1p & 6:30p
Sunset Park South Division St, Ocean City
September 12
White Horse Park Ocean Parkway, North Gate, Ocean Pines
September 13
Indian River Lifesaving Station 25039 Coastal Highway Rehoboth Beach, DE
September 14
Friday Night Art Stroll on Main St Downtown Berlin

For more on Brown Box Theatre Project, including what it was like to watch last year's performance Twelfth Night, and more on former local Kyler Taustin, read on…

Two people, a man and a woman swim frantically across the water—seemingly their lives depend upon them reaching the shore.  They arrive on solid ground and begin clamoring clumsily up the small hill.  They burst through what appears to be the hull of a large wooden ship and collapse, exhausted–before breathlessly beginning to speak in a dialect harkening back to the 16th Century.  

This impressive and dramatic scene took place off a winding road on a horse farm in Berlin, MD.  The location—boasting acres of rolling grasses surrounded by white picket fences, ponds and four-legged friends of the horse variety, and an impressive grey barn, serve as the three-week long rehearsal space for Brown Box Theatre Project's newest production, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

The horse farm also houses eight of the fifteen people who make up the production’s staff—all of whom normally reside in New York City or Boston. Currently, they are on an extended month-long working vacation, three weeks of rehearsals and one week of performances, here on the Eastern Shore.  Many of the actors compare this experience to a sleep-away summer camp for adults. They live, sleep, and breathe the play most days, and have the opportunity to explore Ocean City in their off-hours. It’s an enviable creative escape from the everyday life of what many working actors must do—regular jobs, until their passion can fully fund their lifestyles.

For most, it’s their first time on the shore here, and stand-outs have included eating Maryland Blue Crabs with Old Bay for the first time (admittedly without the correct technique), Fractured Prune Donuts, and being saved by the very thorough Ocean City Beach Patrol—almost. 

These actors and crew are about to perform ten free performances of Twelfth Night at various locations across the shore, with two performances set on the beach—an opportunity the cast was beyond measure, thrilled to be a part of.  They conveyed an exuberance only found amidst people immersed in doing what they love on the deepest level.  It was infectious.

Brown Box Theatre Project

Brown Box Theatre Project—the brainchild of Kyler Taustin, a Berlin, MD native who now resides in Boston, and Kimberly Barrante, of New York City, make these performances of Twelfth Night across the shore possible. The Brown Box Theatre Project has a do-it-yourself mentality.  Actors, playwrights, set designers and anyone else trying to make a name for themselves in the theater industry are plagued by many things–they could be type-cast after one great role, they may move to a new city and be the low man on the totem pole, the realities of everyday life may force them to miss auditions.  By creating Brown Box Theatre, Kyler and Kimberly brought the opportunities to themselves and their extended community of theater friends.

Brown Box functions in part, as a call for submissions.  Performers, directors, playwrights, and designers send in hoped-for projects via Brown Box’s submissions form on their website.  The submissions are reviewed, and the most viable for a variety of reasons, are then put into production.  Theater groups like Brown Box are becoming all the rage.  As Kimberly noted, a big plus for these groups is that in the viral media age, it’s possible to promote productions without any concrete or viable advertising budget. Overall budgets can then be smaller, and when the production is traveling—as with Twelfth Night, it saves the group from rental fees on an actual regular theater facility.  Thus enabling Brown Box to be nouveau, embodying the practices of theater’s earliest days. 

At one time all acting troupes were traveling–especially in Shakespeare’s day–until they became notable enough to attract a sponsor, who would then in turn, build the troupe a regular theater, as was the case with Shakespeare’s famous Globe Theater.  But the name "Brown Box" conveys this group’s true goal—they want to be able to put it all into a box (or in this case, a horse trailer,) and hold their performances anywhere.

Therefore, Brown Box isn’t looking for a regular theater; they enjoy the idea of the on-the-road troupe.  But they do need sponsors. Twelfth Night is Brown Box’s largest project to date, and was made possible by an online fundraising site called Kickstarter, that raised $7,000, grants from both the Worcester County Arts Council, and the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, and several private donor supporters. It takes a lot to build an entirely portable shipwreck set (that fits like a giant puzzle), and to ask a cast and crew of fifteen to give up their day jobs and move on location for a month. This isn’t a studio motion picture set, and these actors aren’t on the pay grade of Hollywood stars—some had to give up their regular paying jobs to get the month off. This is a labor of love—that hopefully leads to continual productions, and a reality where all the members can quit their day jobs, enjoying traveling acting careers that also happen to pay all the bills.  Kyler Taustin’s goal is for Brown Box Theatre to be at that point in two to three years time…a goal he has just admitted out loud for the first time.

Kyler Taustin

Kyler Taustin has a story rich with elements that make him, a very intriguing character.  Kyler’s family owns a veritable food empire in the Ocean City area. And even though Twelfth Night practices on the family farm, it’s evident Kyler intends to make his own way in the world. It’s clear however, that Kyler’s family and home community, are only too pleased to witness what he can do.

Kyler left the area at age thirteen to attend boarding school in New Hampshire.  The school paid as much attention and funding to theater as it did to sports, a pivotal draw for Kyler.  As a child, Kyler embraced the theater, but living on the Eastern Shore at that time gave him few options. Fortunately, Kyler’s mother had been a cabaret singer, and she was only too willing to travel to Washington DC, or New York to expose him to the beloved arts.  Boarding School offered the optimum stage for Kyler’s early acting.  After boarding school, Kyler attended various programs at Carnegie Melon, Oxford University in England, and received his diploma from Emerson University in Boston, all esteemed schools enhancing aspects of his ability as a performer. 

Kyler is thrilled to be able to take what he has been doing, and bring it back to his home—an area that according to Kyler, is primed for this kind of additional exposure to the arts.  Key, in addition to the numerous free public performances, are the shows Brown Box will put on in area schools.

Kyler and Kimberly both speak passionately about theater’s transformative powers, on not only the actors themselves, but the audience who is watching.  Kyler in particular is on a personal crusade to combat the sense of apathy that plagues the youth population. Theater teaches kids to empathize with the characters, understand their emotions and motivations.  With so much of the arts being taken out of schools across the country, and an emphasis on testing taking it’s place, Kyler brought forth an interesting point saying that people don’t yet realize,

“We are failing the communication test as opposed to the physics test.” 
Indicating that it’s equally as important to be able to understand each other, as it is to test well.  Kyler and Kimberly hope that Brown Box Theatre enables them to combat this sense of apathy, through their performances.  It’s a tall order, but the passion displayed towards their pursuit, leaves little doubt that they will succeed.

Years ago, Kyler Taustin was just another Eastern Shore kid, who left home to pursue his dreams.  Now, he returns as a man with his own theater company, and an ambitious production of Twelfth Night.  For Kyler, bringing this particular production to the Eastern Shore was crucial.  It is the story of a shipwreck, which would only be enhanced by performing it against the natural and beautiful environmental backdrop of the shore.  It was also the first play Tyler performed in when he knew he wanted to become an actor.  He has truly come full circle.

For more information on the Brown Box Theatre Project Here

On Kyler Taustin: Here