William Shakespeare is a very old guy. That doesn’t mean he’s set in his ways.

Directors, producers and actors around the world put their special spins on Shakespeare every day. Some ideas might be bolder or better than others, but all have the same intent: keeping a 17th-century playwright and his plays fresh enough to draw audiences.

With her staff and actors, Nebraska Shakespeare interim artistic director Sarah Brown is shaking up this year’s Shakespeare on the Green. It begins Thursday night at Elmwood Park with “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

Brown, who had been the organization’s director of education, is putting her mark on both the plays and the atmosphere at the 33-year-old festival.

“I’m excited to try new things out,” she said. “I’m looking to make it more accessible. A lot of people think it’s something that’s not for them.”

Nebraska Shakespeare is adding several things leading up to the play each night. Benson First Friday’s MaMo, a traveling art gallery in a repurposed semi-trailer, will be on-site featuring works by local artists. And in addition to the wandering medieval song troupe Madrigali et al, a local musician will play onstage each evening as an opening act.

Members of the company will present a five-minute onstage synopsis of the evening’s play before it begins, so people will be better prepared for Shakespeare’s language, themes and plotlines.

The new activities join popular longtime features such as the nightly scholars forum, in which members of the company discuss Shakespeare’s text, production and relevant contemporary topics, and the recitation of winning works in the annual Anne Dittrick Sonnet Writing Contest.

There also are a number of theme days:

This Friday is Ladies Night (attend with your pals, co-workers or members of various women’s organizations).

June 29 is Family Night (face-painting and other activities for kids).

July 2 is Educators Night (wear your school apparel, come with fellow teachers and, with an ID, get food and beer discounts).

July 3 is Late Night Hamlet (a special 10 p.m. performance of the play that alternates with the opening piece).

July 5 is Red, White and Blue Night (wear patriotic apparel to extend the Independence Day celebration).

“It’s more accessible and more fun,” Brown said.

You still can bring a blanket, lawn chairs, wine and a picnic basket to the grounds behind the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The plays start at 8 p.m., but if you come early, you get a good spot and you have plenty of time to experience the festival atmosphere.

The plays, of course, are the thing. Brown has dubbed this a Female Forward season, with a woman playing Hamlet and some other traditionally male parts in Shakespeare’s tragedy, and a cast entirely composed of women for “All’s Well That Ends Well.”

Her reason behind it is straightforward.

“Bottom line, I just wanted to provide more opportunities for women,” she said. “There are less opportunities for women who work only in Shakespeare.”

Brown said she also hopes it will create discussion among festival-goers.

“I’m OK with doing something bold and having discussion, (but not) when people start shutting people down,” she said. “I love a discussion. I’d love for people to come up and say ‘I totally disagreed with what you did.’ ”

She plans to continue providing more opportunities for women in line with “50/50 by 2020,” an initiative throughout the nationwide theater community to find more roles for women and give them equal pay. The name means that theaters would strive to have casts that featured gender equality by next year.

Most of all, she said, she wants to tell stories honestly regardless of gender. She created an all-female performing group, Juno’s Swans, for Nebraska Shakespeare, and reaction to their plays has been positive, she said.

What about Shakespeare die-hards, who, unlike the Bard, are set in their ways?

“Purists seem to have a good time” at the all-female shows, she said. “And I think Shakespeare would love it. He would really be pleased that people were still experimenting with his texts in the ways we are this summer.”

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Junkstock returns to permanent home

When the water receded after this year’s flooding along the Platte and Elkhorn rivers, it became clear that Junkstock couldn’t be held anytime soon at Sycamore Farms.

Founder Sara Alexander moved the spring edition of her popular outdoor market to the Sarpy County Fairgrounds and began to tackle cleanup at its permanent site, which also is her family’s home. Tons of sand had washed over the 130-acre farm.

Hours and hours of hard work later, Sycamore Farms is ready for this weekend’s Junkstock: Underneath the Stars. It runs 4 to 11 p.m. Friday, 2 to 11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

More than 130 vendors will be on hand. It also will have a 1950s Ferris wheel, food trucks, a beer garden and bloody mary boathouse, a vintage VW show and yoga, among other activities.

The farm is at 1150 River Road Drive in Waterloo, north of the 228th Street exit off West Dodge Road.

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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