“Cwiklik's multimedia production does something even more important then simply making Shakespeare relevant to today's world.  He's made the Bard's text actually come alive...  it's one heck of a visceral experience.”

--  Lauren Wissot, Carnal San Francisco review of Titus Andronicus


The competition was fierce.  Markets, pubs, and sellers lined the bridge crossing the Thames, hawking their wares.  Once over the bridge, Bankside was a cacophony of sounds and smells, the calls of corner butchers and the whistles of prostitutes, the stench of refuse and dung merging queasily with the tempting aroma of pub pies and cooked poultry, smoked fish and fresh ale.  You could stop on the way to the Globe and instead hit up the Rose or the Swan, or say to hell with it and spend the afternoon watching bear baiting.  Not to mention you could just stay in the city center and possibly see another traitor drawn and quartered, or stop down the Clink and laugh at the poor prisoners scrambling for tossed mouldy crumbs.  Or just, you know, hit the pub and get hammered.  Again.  All this and more the Globe and Shakespeare had to compete with.  Every day.


If he were alive today, he'd likely be a showrunner.  Maybe he'd write for Image or Dark Horse or Avatar.  Maybe he'd be another Freddie Wong, turning out YouTube shorts for millions of followers.  The Elizabethan theater was pop culture, its audience made up of street trash in the stalls, royalty in the balconies, and middle class merchants filling the seats all around.  It was open, raucous, immediate.  Everyone went, and everyone had a favorite performer, writer, company.  The Lord Chamberlain's Men, of which Shakespeare was a member, had a rabid following, its star performers Richard Burbage and Will Kemp the celebrities of their day, and Shakespeare himself was roaringly popular, leading to his name being misleadingly slapped on countless compilations of dodgy poetry passed off at bookseller's stalls across London.  They were notorious, famous, unavoidable.  They were The Boys.


These truths are all buried now under centuries of treacle laid on by scholars, academics, and acolytes, who keep the Bard's work out of reach, all the rough edges sanded down, the crude jokes explained away, the naughty bits obscured with coughing and handwaving, these ribald, ragged works treated with a reverence the Lord Chamberlain's Men may have found laughable.  He's ossified now, a butterfly pinned to corkboard, stuffed and mounted.  Airbrushed.  A tribute band in an hotel bar.


Shakespeare should be accessible.  Not condescending or clumsy, but nimble, immediate, welcoming.  A tired-ass suburban dad coming off a 60 hour work week should be able to sit down at a performance of Taming of the Shrew and not only understand every word, but laugh his ass off.  We've had that happen.  We also had a German couple attend a performance and have a roaring good time, even though the wife didn't speak a word of English and the husband had to give her Cliff's Notes on the plot during scene transitions (how they heard about us, I never quite worked out).  During Antony and Cleopatra, we had rooms full of reluctant theater goers dragged along by wives, boyfriends, co-workers, etc, approaching and thanking the cast for their first experience in really understanding Shakespeare.  An NYC high school class came to Titus Andronicus on closing night, entering with dour, blank faces of the damned, forced to come for class credit; they give us a standing ovation at the end, and emailed me for weeks after with questions about other Shakespeare plays, telling me excitedly how much they loved the show and how it changed their perception of theater and the Bard.


That is what you want.  That is what we should be doing.  Let Shakespeare entertain.  Be bold, be daring, make the text come alive in a modern way.  The trick is building a concept that works, not one that smothers the text.  Making the language sound immediate and modern, without breaking meter or sounding pretentious.  Antony and Cleopatra recast as a Vegas mob capo and his burlesque queen.  Titus Andronicus a military matriarch going to war with the Empire she sacrificed blood and flesh to save.  Petruchio and Kate a perfectly mismatched Southern hellion and redneck good ol boy.  It seems so familiar and natural this way.  It's not hard, but it's not easy.  We've staged Shakespeare directly three times, and have presented one pop cultural tribute to his genius.  We've created an entirely new world out of the shattered, shredded remnants of his language and themes.  I hope to do more.  If I were told I could do two shows a year for the rest of my life but they would all have to be Shakespeare, it would be no punishment.  The Lord Chamberlain's men were entertainers.  Too many have forgotten this.  We haven't.  Shakespeare is our homeboy.



-- Frank Cwiklik, NYC 2015


Photos from top to bottom:  William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleoptra (2003), Titus Andronicus (2009), The Taming of the Shrew (2011)


“Tyson and Swiderski are near perfect... compelling, energetic, and funny... A work that will appeal even to those who are usually disinterested in Shakespeare...”

-- Adrienne Urbanski, Theatre is Easy (theasy.com)


The Red Room, June/July 2011

The Red Room, July/August 2002




    Shakespeare meets the Sopranos in a radical retelling of the classic tale of jealousy, greed, romance, and murder. The place: Empire, Nevada. Time: Indeterminate. Away from the prying eyes of the law, five casino bosses, each with their own private army, tussle over turf, both real and perceived.  While vacationers, millionaires, and fellow gangsters laze away the days under the hot desert sun and seize the nights in the cool red lounges of the Miracle Mile, brash, ruthless Caesar plots to wrest control of all his competitors' lucrative gaming resorts.  Meanwhile, the hotblooded Antony, smitten with burlesque queen and legendary beauty Cleopatra, fights to keep his rapidly crumbling empire of crime and gambling from slipping through his fingers. Bullets fly, bodies pile up, and before this long, hot summer is over, someone's gonna end up dead -- and someone else is going to have complete control of Empire, Nevada. Not that anyone could control the lustful Cleopatra...


    The first direct DMT Shakespeare production, and the genesis of the American Shakespeare Factory, Antony and Cleopatra played to packed houses, standing ovations, and unanimous critical acclaim -- and it kicked the ass of every other Shakespearean production playing in NYC that season. Glittery, sexy, gaudy, violent, DMT's Antony and Cleopatra was an exciting new spin on a timeless tale: a high-energy, high stakes theatrical event, a whirlwind of sex, violence, and ruthless ambition. Inspired by the colorful (and often shady) history of Las Vegas and the exploits of the unsavoury characters who built it out of nothing but desert sand, this A&C was unlike any ever seen: as romantic as it was brutal, as hopeful as it was bleak, full of life, death, and all the things that make life worth living -- and killing for.





















The Brick, October 2009

"A phenomenal experience...

jawdropping... the cast is great through and through...  bold, exciting, well-thought-out choices... FOUR STARS"

--  Matthew Barbot,


Kraine Theater, March/April 2010

"Has to be seen to be believed!... Cwiklik's direction is crisp and clean... an incredible cadre of young and talented performers... FLAWLESS!"

-- Michael Roderick, broadwayworld.com review





    Victorious in battle, chosen by the people to lead, Titus Andronicus has returned home after ten long years defending the honor, the ethics, the very existence of the nation state she loves -- only to discover that the art of politics and skirmishes within the halls of power are darker, crueler, and more violent than anything she has seen on the battlefield. Her nation changed beyond recognition, her leaders corrupt and venal, the rules she lives by mocked and broken, she devises a revenge for her enemies far worse than anything she could have done at war.


    This radical reinvisioning of one of Shakespeare's most controversial works boldly recasts the family Andronici as a matriarchal career military clan, with Titus as the grande dame of Roman warcraft and her sister Marta as the no-nonsense Tribune of the people.  Presenting this dark revenge melodrama as a conflict between matriarchs vying for power and justice in a wartorn world, the show's themes of sacrifice, honor, vengeance, and cruelty are thrown into stark relief.  Supported by phenomenal performances from its dedicated cast, DMT's Titus took audiences by surprise and became one of the most acclaimed classical theater productions of its season.  Direct in focus and bracingly immediate, this was a Titus that eschewed gore and gimmickry and confronted the dark and violent heart of this difficult work.


    NOTE:  As patrons were lined up at the box office, a monitor was mounted showing campaign ads for Saturninus and Bassianus, which both set the mood and backstory and helped cut much of the opening pages of the text to allow us to blast the show open with Titus' return to Rome, allowing us a leaner, punchier text to work with.  These two ads, which ran on a loop during preshow, are presented below.


    Original trailer created for Titus Andronicus.  This was a modified edit of the montage played before the infamous banquet scene, and, as both versions were created to be screened on low-res playback equipment with a ton of compression, the effects and color timing for both were never really finished, as the low-quality formatting was able to hide a multitude of abuses.  I've cleaned this up a bit, but it still will look a little dodgy on more recent playback equipment, especially after being thrown to the mercy of YouTube's compression algorithms, so, my apologies in advance.  Then again, this is free entertainment, so you can't complain too much.



    in association with The Brick


    William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus



    Kymberly Tuttle * Sean Phillips * Brianna Tyson * Greg Engebrecht * Ann Breitbach * Fred Backus * Ken Simon * Kristin Woodburn * Adam Samtur * Craig Kelton Peterson * Peter Schwartz * Peter Schuyler * Stephanie Wortel * Lydia Blaisdell * William Welles


    Written by William Shakespeare

    Co-Producer Michele Schlossberg

    Designed, Produced and Directed by Frank Cwiklik



    When his beloved rug is micturated upon as a result of comically mistaken identity, layabout ruffian the Knave embarks on a journey of epic proportions, encountering manipulative aristocrats, seductive artists, murderous consorts, and the worst theater troupe in the world, all aided and abetted by his bombastic friend Sir Walter of Poland, against a backdrop of ninepins, taverns, and pipesmoking.


    Two Gentlemen of Lebowski is an extraordinary work from filmmaker/playwright Adam Bertocci which reimagines the cult classic motion picture as a Shakespearian farce, creating an amazing new work from the heightened language and surreal comic landscape of its inspirations.  Initially a viral sensation, Bertocci's script has been published around the world and remains a top-selling cult classic, delighting fans of both Shakespeare and movie comedy.  Immaculately crafted and riotously funny, this instant classic was also the inaugural production of DMT’s American Shakespeare Factory, an exciting project intended to present all of the Bard’s works in eclectic and innovative new productions, and to present new works exploring the connection between the great classical texts and the demands of modern theater.  The fastest-selling show in NYC Indie theater history, and the biggest smash in DMT's repertory by far, the show attracted audiences from around the country, and from as far as the UK, Switzerland, Germany, and Australia, and remains a sensation to this day, over five years after its closing date.


    Infamous, influential, irreverent, and peculiarly brilliant, nearly banned on its initial run, and likely never to happen again, it was a piece of New York theater history, and one of the best costume parties, Ever.




    So, that happened.


    Producing and directing this show was like trying to ride a wild beast, and I can't even imagine what Adam was going through fending off lawyers, agents, and Lebowski fanatics. It's also the most extraordinary experience we've ever had -- the love and enthusiasm for this show from all over the world was overwhelming, and we had some of the most giving, excited, and generous audiences I've encountered in my nearly two decades of working in and around show business. I was gratified by how many people got it, how many understood that this was as much a commentary on pop culture, Shakespeare, and performance in general as it was a cult comedy. We took an enormous risk on our interpretation of this beast, and our incredible cast and crew, plus the glorious lunatics at Horse Trade, were totally committed to making that gamble pay off. The response from our audiences, many of whom are still contacting us with warm affection and regards as of this writing, over a month later, proved that we were right to treat this as an event and not as a cheap gimmick.


    It was the hardest and most draining show I've ever done, and I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of it, and the cast and crew that pushed themselves, sometimes beyond exhaustion, sometimes to tears, to make sure that this show lived up to expectations. Certain Unnamed Persons are hellbent on ensuring that this show is never seen again, but for those of us who were there, dear God it was something special.


    I'm such a sap.



    NOTE:  A particularly rabid Lebowski fan with terrific front row seats was good enough to film the first twenty minutes of the last performance of Two Gentlemen and upload them on the YouTubes.  Due to various ridiculous legal nonsense courtesy of Churlish Persons Who Shall Remain Unnamed, it's not wise for us to embed them here.  It would be a shame if we were to accidentally include a link to them, though.  Like this one.  Whoops. Oh, did it again, sorry.


    Kevin Orzechowski...William Shakespeare, tourist

    Josh Mertz...The Knave

    Craig Kelton Peterson and Dan Phai... Blanche and Woo, thugs

    Bob Laine... Sir Walter of Poland, a veteran

    Stewart Urist... Sir Donald, a bowler

    Matt Gray... Mr. Brandt, personal assistant

    Ed Lane... Sir Geoffrey of Lebowski, achiever

    Becky Byers... Lady Bonnie Lebowski, trouble

    Devin Landin... Oliver aka Karl Hungus, nihilist

    Devin Landin... Jack Smoke, pacifist

    Matt Gray... Joshua Quince, pederast

    Craig Kelton Peterson... Liam O’Brien, lackey

    Brianna Tyson... Maude Lebowski, artist and feminist

    Craig Kelton Peterson and Dan Phai... Nihilists, germans

    Shiloh Klein... Player Queen

    Devin Landin... Player Hungus

    Melissa Opie... Player Bonnie

    Kelly McCormack... Player Whore

    Erin Posanti... Mistress Quickly, bowling green and tavern proprietress

    Craig Kelton Peterson... Knox Harrington, odd duck

    Devin Landin... Doctor Butts, no applause please just throw money

    Courtni Wilson and Erin Posanti... Incredibly Serious Performance Artists,

    incredibly serious performance artists (grants pending)

    Shiloh Klein... Pilar, nurse

    Dan Phai... Lawrence, punk

    Matt Gray... Clown, obviously quite upset about the whole thing

    Devin Landin... Jacques Treehorn, actor/manager

    Dan Phai... Brother Seamus, hot on the trail

    Craig Kelton Peterson... Burke O’Hare, Gravedigger



    Shiloh Klein * Kelly McCormack * Melissa Opie * Erin Posanti * Courtni Wilson


    For DMTheatrics:

    Managing Director, Michele Schlossberg

    Artistic Director, Frank Cwiklik

    For Horse Trade Theater Group:

    Managing Director, Erez Ziv

    Horse Trade Technical Director, Elaine Jones


    Costume Designer STEPH CATHRO

    Production Technical Director luckydave

    Scenic and Prop Design ELAINE JONES

    Choreographer BECKY BYERS


    As writ by ADAM BERTOCCI

    Produced and Directed by FRANK CWIKLIK


    Special thanks to Dina Gray and Karen Flood for costume support


    This production of The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski is not endorsed by or associated with the Coen Brothers,

    the writers and directors of the film “The Big Leboswki”, or Working Title or Universal Pictures, the producer

    and distributor of the film “The Big Lebowski”.  Any and all stage rights in and to “The Big Lebowski” are

    reserved to the Coen Brothers.



    When the rascally Petruchio charms his way into a wealthy family by hitching himself to their hellraising oldest daughter, Kate, he must find a way to tame the fiery lass before she ends up taming him -- which she just might. Not to mention her younger sister, Bianca, who's caught the eye of two scheming, dreaming lads who're willing to do anything to catch her heart and her hand in marraige. Plus, there's the nanny disguised as a man who convinces the gullible guy from out of town to masquerade as a titan of industry. Oh, and then there's the... you know, I think you just have to see this one.


    Warm, bighearted, barrel-chested and shameless, this was a truly modern, radical take on a difficult classic, whose setting of the modern American South perfectly captured both the good ol'boy rambunctiousness of its hero and the changing and challenging attitudes of its heroine.  Stripped to its walls, the legendary Red Room was transformed into a laidback, barewalled barnloft space, with bleacher seating, special blanket seats on the "NASCAR lawn", and inventive opening shorts that brought the rarely performed prologue to hilarious life.  Beloved by audiences, and gathering strong reviews, this production proved once and for all that DMT's goal of creating Shakespeare for everyone was attainable, and roaring good fun besides.




    Most productions of Taming of the Shrew cut the opening Christopher Sly prologue.  This is, in a word, dumb.  It's the only prologue in all of Shakespeare's canon, which means he didn't do it for no reason, and it repeats and lampoons not only the themes of the show, but Elizabethan stagecraft itself, from jigs to clowning to cross dressing, to the wide range of classes in the theater.  Cutting it mortally wounds the piece:  it's obviously intended to act as air-quotes or parentheses around the show as a whole.


    The DMT Shrew was Blue Collar Comedy Tour meets Shakespeare, set in the urban South with a redneck Petruchio, a rabble-rousing, hard-drinking Kate, and suitors who were essentially beta males scrambling for attention.  The prologue was filmed and shown to the audience bracketed by clips of football, KFC ads, and NASCAR races, hopefully setting up our NYC audiences for a southern mock-fest.  The prologue itself was fun to do -- meant to look like an early-70s European art film showing on a public cable station, it gave us a chance to send up both our own pretensions and the audience's expectations, and hopefully bring Shakespeare's intentions up to date.  The full preshow reel was about twenty minutes and framed to fit the available projection area, but I've cut this down to just the relevant sections (the prologue and the Hortensio's Auto World ad preceding) and reframed it for a full screen. -- Frank Cwiklik, NYC










    with EDGAR EGUIA as Mr. Pedant

    and TROY ALAN as Vincentio


    Written by William Shakespeare

    Publicity by Emily Owens PR


    Produced by Michele Schlossberg and Frank Cwiklik

    Designed and Directed by Frank Cwiklik



Two Gentlemen of Lebowski (2010)