The Bard’s Town, a new concept restaurant/performing arts venue, is opening this summer. True to its Shakespearean mascot, we composed a double English sonnet in iambic pentameter (with translations for those currently not in sophomore English) and posed it to co-owner Doug Schutte.
And you thought online journalists couldn’t put two sentences together.
So I would like to speak to you about
This “Bard’s Town” thing you want to do, ‘tis fun
As far as theatre it’s a bit far out
From downtown where such things are norm’ly done
(Hey, I like the name, but this isn’t really close to the Theatre District. Do you think its appeal will easily extend to the Highlands?)
The idea came before the name. The Highlands is really an artistic hub of the city, and I found it odd that it didn’t have a theater. This point always struck a nerve with me, and so after roughly five years of planning, I decided to make this dream a reality. People are clamoring for performing arts in the area. The name, the Bard’s Town, is certainly convenient due to the street we’re on, and the pun connecting that with the most famous bard of all. That said, it carries much more weight for us than that. I have always looked at the term bard to mean any artist, any medium. The connection to Shakespeare is an important one. Shakespeare was what we hope to be now. Shakespeare didn’t play the old…he created the new.
For a long time this place had been (ere you)
Once Big Dave’s Outpost, ere, Judge Roy Bean’s
Where I met my spouse in two thousand two
How will you top that kind of stage’d scene
(I met my husband at an earlier incarnation of your restaurant. Beat that.)
The reason why we kept coming back to this building was because of the space and the way the space is laid out. The old main dining room is going to have 65 seats; and then next door to that on the first floor is a 35-foot lounge with a small stage in and of itself, for smaller parties—a bit of a lounge-y atmosphere that will be a bit different than the restaurant side itself; and a 70-seat (with tables) theater upstairs. Each of those three spaces has its own unique identity, and the idea of the artist (in the general sense) ties them together. A lot to offer to potentially three unique crowds.
We love our Shakespeare out at Central Park
(Soon Richard 3 and Tempest we will seek)
But in off-season times, and after dark
Do you think that the novelty will keep?
(After the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, how do you plan to keep the momentum going?)
I worked in 2006 as a Treadwell Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe. On my return, I found myself constantly wondering, What would Shakespeare do? And what he would do is exactly what we are doing: promoting the new. What struck me at the Globe just changed the way I looked at theatre. It made me think of Shakespeare and this whole bard thing as a new thing—new work, new plays, the new bards, tying in the old and the new.
We’ll have a resident company staging seven productions starting in February 2011, all Kentucky playwrights; then the next year, we’ll have two locals and bring in others from New York, Chicago, London. But beyond the resident theatre, we are already making agreements with numerous local theatre troupes, poetry groups and musical acts. I think it would be safe to say that five nights each week, for 52 weeks, Louisville residents will have a space to experience the art of today—and that’s just plain exciting. [The Bard’s Town] is not really a Shakespeare in the Park, but a Humana Fest all year 'round. We won’t be playing the Bard of 1600, but rather the bards of today.
The venue will bring patrons in one time
The menu—will the food be so sublime?
(Tell me about the food.)
We’re trying to incorporate a local feel as much as possible, through local sustainable products, Kentucky wines and spirits and beers. As far as the food goes, our chef, Joseph Gadansky, worked as the sous chef at Club Grotto, and we’ve been working closely with him to develop something that works for all of us and be affordable. The fare will be comparable to the Bristol in pricing, but a little more eclectic: bacon-wrapped dates, bourbon tenderloins, bison…even an osso buco[!]. He’s pretty confident that it’ll work.
Besides the name, the pun, the site, “the Bard”
Why do you choose this style, this club you fain
With culinary fare and ale by yard
What background have you with which to begin?
(Will you have drinks or will it just be dinner theatre? And what’s your experience?)
It is not dinner theatre. There is drink service and basically a prix fixe menu, but the dinner and the lounge are separate and self-contained as far as that goes.
Jon DeSalvo is part owner in charge of the restaurant and lounge—head of kitchen, back of house. He owned the Willow Lake Tavern in Anchorage. Scot Atkinson worked with me in the theatre as a producer and director. My most recent and relevant experience has been as head of the Kentucky Theatre Association, being the advocate for theatres on all levels in Kentucky. I do most of the front of the house, plus the marketing and bookkeeping.
You’re renovating years of old hist’ry
(Older than this Elizabethan age)
Have you uncov’red a spot of mystery
As you write tales anew upon this page?
(This building is about a hundred years old, which, contrary to what many people think, is older than the current queen. How’s the renovation going? Any surprises?)
Most of the décor is from a lot of the old theaters of Louisville bridging from one point to the next, and we’re also going to be promoting local artists and sculpture in display. Dave’s covered a lot over of the Judge Roy Bean’s stuff, so we tore down to the exposed brick. You find discoveries that you don’t expect; other stuff hasn’t been all that pleasant.
More than a public house it is to be
You’re raising funds and making plans to show
The kind of live visions that patrons see
And when will the curtain then upward go
(Like any theatrical producer, you’re seeking backers. How can people get in on that?)
You can make a tax-deductible donation through our website, and also through Facebook. The restaurant and lounge area will open in July, and the theater will open and have its first show at the end of August.
DeSalvo, Jon and Atkinson, Scot too
On board this ship at Bardstown and at Speed
I look to see what you three guys will do
And wish a great fulfillment of your deed
(The Bard’s Town, on that road, eighteen-oh-one
The Bard’s Town dot com, now, till op’ning’s done!)
(The Bard’s Town will be located at 1801 Bardstown Road, and is online at www.thebardstown.com.)
Photo: Courtesy The Bard’s Town