Crowd sitting outside of a coffee shop
People sit outside of the Mill at Telegraph waiting for the ‘Unshaken’ festival to begin on Sept. 9. Photo by Riley Tolan-Keig/NNS.

As performers stood on stage outside of the Mill, cars drove past, and a McDonald’s sign across the street backlight the stage. The performers carried on with their Shakespearean-inspired pieces despite these distractions. 

Fred Vogel was one of five performers who presented a Shakespearean-inspired solo pieces at “Unshaken,” a festival created by the local nonprofit Flatwater Shakespeare Company. The festival was free to attend outside of the Mill at Telegraph District. 

Vogel’s piece, “Broadguess,” was written by writer Dee Ryan of Chicago. The story is about a detective hunting down Shakespeare. He said the dark themes of Shakespeare matched well with the same tropes of a detective story.

“Shakespeare plays are messed up; there is a lot of stuff going on,” Vogel said. “There are murders and suicides and all these different levels of crime that lends itself really well to a detective story.”

Attendee Nancy Flader of Lincoln said the themes in Shakespeare’s work are what has kept him alive the past 400 years.

“I think Shakespeare offers so much,” Flader said. “We saw it tonight with the high drama, great sorrow, fantastic comedy and just holding up a mirror to society. I think we all enjoy that.”

Nancy and Olivia scaled - 'Unshaken' festival highlights Lincoln’s growing Shakespeare community
Nancy Flader (left) sits with her granddaughter Olivia Vore outside of the Mill at Telegraph at the ‘Unshaken’ festival Sept. 9. Flader received a postcard in the mail about the event and decided to bring her granddaughter along, who is attending Doane University on a theatre scholarship. (Photo by Riley Tolan-Keig/NNS)

According to Amelia Altstadt of Lincoln, Shakespeare has stayed popular because of a more practical reason: copyright. 

“I think Shakespeare is so relevant to people nowadays because they are very universal stories that don’t have copyright attached to them,” Altstadt said. “So anybody can put on their twists and flares. That’s what makes an event like this possible.”

Lincoln is one of the many cities across the world that is growing its Shakespeare community. Altstadt said that Flatwater Shakespeare Company has played a huge role in this. 

“Flatwater Shakespeare has been here for the past couple of decades really fostering that level of interest, and bringing it for free to a lot of people like ‘Unshaken’ tonight,” Altstadt said.

Summer Lukasiewicz, executive artistic director of Flatwater Shakespeare Company, said the company has been cultivating the Shakespeare community for a while, ever since 2001 when they put on its first performance at the historic Wyuka Cemetery stables. 

“The community members in 2001 said ‘hey, it looks like this should be a place for Shakespeare. Let’s try it and see if people come’ and they did, and we’ve been going for 20 years,” Lukasiewicz said. 

The second half of the “Unshaken” festival is scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Mill at Telegraph, with more solo performances.