While merging literary classics with Florida history, Ben Gunter birthed one of the most diverse festivals Tallahassee has seen. Loco for Love showcases two famous authors, Shakespeare and Cervantes and also depicts prominent moments in Florida’s early history.
Starting off in 2016, this event led by Gunter and his team discovers that this year was the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare; a famous English playwright, and Cervantes; a famous Spanish writer. Both Shakespeare and Cervantes died in the month of April in 1616.
The organization Theater with a Mission wanted to know how Cervantes and Shakespeare were connected. Shakespeare’s last play was called the “History of Cardenio,” which was based on a character in Cervantes’ great novel, “Don Quixote.” Cardenio goes crazy for love when his best friend steals his fiancé. Hence, the festival’s name, “Loco for Love.”
The organizers created a play where Shakespeare and Cervantes come back from the dead and start to wrestle with each other for the title of royal champion storyteller.
Theater with a Mission also discovered that in 2019, it would be 200 years since Florida transitioned from a Spanish providence to a U.S. territory.
They wanted people to experience what that time was like and expand it by having Shakespeare and Cervantes start a dialogue between Spanish and English speaking in dancing, dueling, dining, and drama.
This four-day event at Railroad Square Art Park started on Thursday and ended Sunday. Each day was full of activities, workshops and parades depicting Florida’s history and also the comparison and contrast between the different methods in Spanish and English storytelling.
“I want people to learn something about their own roots, I want people to experience pieces of Florida’s history,” said Gunter.
The organizers interacted with people by letting them experience history by tasting, touching, dancing and wrestling with it. They had a choreographer, Nena Couch from Ohio State University, teach people dances from the Renaissance era. There were also lectures about Spanish Florida, puppet shows and plays that signified both Florida and Shakespeare and Cervantes.
“I really enjoy the art of the theater, so it was beautiful to see how the actors portrayed their characters. The show was very interactive, I learned a few techniques from the show and also where they derived from,” said Sydni Mason, a fourth-year psychology student at FAMU.
Theater with a Mission has supporters like the division of cultural affairs that gives it grants to host their Loco for Love festival. They love doing plays for free which is why they never charge.
“We love having a free festival because we don’t want economics to be a barrier between people and cultural experiences,” Gunter said.