Far in the future, Shakespeare still plays a part in Philly production

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    Alice Yorke and Jed Hancock-Brainerd rehearse

    Alice Yorke and Jed Hancock-Brainerd rehearse "Sans Everything." The play takes place far in the future

    In the theater world, there are playwrights who script their works — and there’s also improvisation, where actors create action and characters in the moment.

    Another approach, called devised theater, explores a middle ground, where a troupe of artists collectively shapes a performance over a series of intense rehearsals.

    Two Philadelphia companies, Lightning Rod Special and Strange Attractor Theatre Company, are collaborating on a work of devised theater, “Sans Everything” at FringeArts.

    “It’s an original piece created by the ensemble members,” said Alice Yorke, co-director of Lightning Rod Special. “It’s not one person going off and writing on their own … it’s people making proposals, making ideas, suggesting characters.

    “Each individual is responsible both for the development of their own character and how that fits into the arc of the show and the larger story.”

    “Sans Everything” is set far in the future, when people no longer need physical bodies. But some of the highly evolved intelligent beings choose to re-embody themselves and go through the human life cycle.

    “They’re equipped with a lot of ‘book smarts,’ but they have no somatic smarts,” said Scott Sheppard, Yorke’s fellow co-director at Lightning Rod Special. “They don’t know what it’s like to have hands or to feel things that are cold or to laugh or to feel emotions.”

    As the characters go through the human life cycle, they encounter Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”

    “It causes a huge rift in their experience of life, the introduction of performance and art and story, and all of the things that that means — love, gender, sex, discord,” said Yorke.

    “Sans Everything” continues at FringeArts in Philadelphia through Saturday.

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