ALAMEDA -- William Shakespeare has been discovered living in Alameda.
He's been found along with Ebenezer Scrooge, "The Tempest's" Prospero, Nick Bottom from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and a honey bee who once was a second-grader -- and is now a distant memory in the mind of Donald Hardy.
The 54-year old actor, writer, and director moved from the East Coast to Alameda after falling in love with the Bay Area during a holiday visit in 1997.
"I woke up one morning and decided I wanted to live on a sailboat," he said.
Hardy isn't alone, but he certainly stands out in following through with his dream.
"I bought a boat in Oakland, found a slip in Alameda, sent out my resumé," he said.
The dotcom boom provided him with work opportunities. After bouncing around, he landed at CBRE, the commerical real estate services firm, where he is a project manager, relying on his architectural background to organize the movement of 10 to 1,000 people and supplies, from tables to technology, in Silicon Valley's high-tech arena.
But the work that moves Hardy -- stirring his spirit and spinning his days and nights into a whirlwind of contrasting responsibilities -- happens on far different stages.
Classic theatrical roles populate his alternative occupation; as Shakespeare at Bay Area Renaissance Faires, as a host of characters in Concord's Butterfield 8 Theater Company productions; and this season, at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair, playing Scrooge at Cow Palace.
"A friend said, 'They're auditioning for a new Scrooge, let's go. You're perfect for it!' which I thought was either an acting compliment or not a good thing," he laughed.
Too busy to prepare, Hardy did a "cold reading" at the audition. Asked to improvise in character, he relied on skills developed at Renaissance Faires.
"When I am Shakespeare, I perform as the character. I present skits to the queen, I use period-accurate tools, I answer people's questions in character," he explained.
"Once, a man asked me if I thought the pen I was using was the same kind they used for the Declaration of Independence," he said. "I had to fudge the answer -- to mask the fact I'd been dead for 400 years."
There's no faking the language of Shakespeare and Hardy is grateful for musical training that helps the words flow, although he finds the amount of words daunting.
"Sometimes I've reached the end of a (Shakespearean) speech and thought, 'How can someone say all those words?' "
Recently, Hardy decided to give up his love for the water -- but not his beloved adopted town. Alameda is a real city, he insisted, with neighborhoods, beautiful homes and a lively, small-town, a middle-America feel.
"But after 11 years of not being able to stand up straight on rainy days when I was in the hold of my boat, I was ready to move," he said. "Besides, I had so many books, I was in danger of sinking."
Coming off a successful gig directing "Pride and Prejudice" at Butterfield 8, Hardy is working on writing two books while rehearsing for his darker-than-a-bee star turn as Scrooge.
"I'm driven by the text to discover who Scrooge is," he said. "I'm finding he was a remarkably sensitive man. I'm floored. I've always gone with the idea that he didn't change until he saw he was about to die. Instead, he has regret from the moment he sees the first ghost."