Category Archives: Shakespeare

PLAY FOR TODAY: REWRITING ‘PERICLES’ ·

(Adam Smyth’s article appeared in The London Times, 10/24.)

Ben Jonson’s comedy The New Inn (1629) was, by all accounts, a theatrical disaster: ‘negligently played’ at the Blackfriars Theatre, according to its title page, ‘and more squeamishly beheld’. The actors were hissed off stage, but Jonson, possessed of what the Renaissance scholar Joseph Loewenstein has called a ‘bibliographic ego’, was not a man to walk away. The printed text of 1631 includes sustained criticism of the audience (Jonson prefers ‘fastidious impertinents’) and a verse with the title ‘The just indignation the author took at the vulgar censure of his play by some malicious spectators begat this following Ode to Himself.’ Here he takes aim at a variety of theatrical taste favouring plays that resemble, in Jonson’s judgment, undesirable organic matter (mould, leftover food, discarded fish).

 

No doubt some mouldy tale,
Like Pericles, and stale
As the shrieve’s crusts, and nasty as his fish –
Scraps out of every dish
Thrown forth, and raked into the common tub,
May keep up the Play-club:
There, sweepings do as well
As the best-ordered meal.

 

By the time Jonson wrote these lines, Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre – or, as almost everyone now agrees, Pericles, Prince of Tyre, co-written by Shakespeare and the nastiest man in Jacobean theatre, George Wilkins (a pimp charged in 1611 with kicking a pregnant woman in the stomach) – had been a hit for more than twenty years. The play is a series of episodes as much as a unified drama, spread over 14 years, a tale of flight, family separation and reunion scattered across the waters and cities of what Richard Halpern called ‘the decaying Hellenistic world’. At its core is the romance arc of a prince, Pericles (whose motto, In hac spe vivo, means ‘In this hope I live’), losing and then finding his wife and daughter: a wife seemingly buried at sea, but washed ashore at Ephesus to a life as a priestess of Diana; a daughter (‘My gentle babe Marina, whom,/For she was born at sea, I have named so’) apparently murdered, but captured by pirates and sold into prostitution, who wins escape through her rhetoric and virtue. The play is dramatically uneven – the early scenes, usually attributed to Wilkins, dispense couplets of stale political wisdom (‘Kings are earth’s gods; in vice their law’s their will;/And, if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?’) – but the Act 5 recognition scene between Pericles, broken by his losses, and Marina is a gripping performance of a kind of staggered anagnorisis, with Pericles terrified at the prospect of joy as he begins to perceive the possibility of reunion: ‘Give me a gash, put me to present pain,/Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me/O’erbear the shores of my mortality/And drown me with their sweetness.’

 

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WHEN MILTON MET SHAKESPEARE: POET’S NOTES ON BARD APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN FOUND ·

(Alison Flood’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/16.)

Hailed as one of the most significant archival discoveries of modern times, text seems to show the Paradise Lost poet making careful annotations on his edition of Shakespeare’s plays

Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton.

The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne’s study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to “the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue”. She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton’s hand.

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THE 10 BEST PLAYS ABOUT POLITICS ·

(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/4.)

As Hansard opens at the National Theatre and drama heats up in Westminster, our critic picks his favourite political theatre

  1. Coriolanus(1607) by William Shakespeare

Whose side is Shakespeare on? As always, it is difficult to tell. Coriolanus is an arrogant military patrician who proves indispensable to the state. The people’s tribunes have a legitimate grievance against a hero who has sanctioned civic starvation, while themselves being devious manipulators. Claimed as both an incitement to revolution and a piece of quasi-fascist hero-worship, the play is magnificently ambivalent.

  1. Fuenteovejuna(1619) by Lope de Vega

This is world drama’s “I am Spartacus” moment. When a brutally rapacious military commander is killed, the inhabitants of a Spanish village are tortured to disclose the name of his murderer. Their joint cry of “Fuenteovejuna did it” is a momentous tribute to the power of collective action. Yet Lope’s ultimate endorsement of monarchical authority suggests that even popular protest, here led by women, is tinged with historical irony.

  1. Mary Stuart(1800) by Friedrich Schiller

No one understood better than Schiller the devious machinations of politics. On the face of it this is a romantic tragedy about two warring queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart. But the greatest scene shows Elizabeth beset by contradictory arguments about Mary’s fate. Some argue for execution, others for clemency, while Leicester ingeniously suggests that Mary should live “in the shadow of the axe”. This is power in action with each case reflecting the tactical acumen of the speaker.

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Photo: The New York Times

FREDERICK DOUGLASS, A SHAKESPEAREAN IN WASHINGTON ·

(John Muller’s article appeared in Shakespeare and Beyond, 7/19; via Pam Green.)

In his life and times Frederick Douglass was known around the world as an orator, abolitionist, suffragist, and reformist. While living in Washington, DC, where he spent the last quarter-century of his life, he was also known to many as an admirer of William Shakespeare.

Today, tens of thousands of people visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site each year at Cedar Hill, Douglass’s home in Anacostia, where the library shelves hold volumes of Shakespeare’s complete works and a framed print of Othello and Desdemona hangs above the mantle in the west parlor.

Douglass frequently alluded to Shakespeare in his oratory and was known to attend performances of Shakespeare at local Washington theatres. On at least two occasions Douglass served as a thespian for the Uniontown Shakespeare Club, a community theater company.

Furthermore, as a philanthropic patron of the arts, Frederick Douglass used his networks and influence within Washington society to support and advance the careers of Black artists, nearly a century before the Black Arts Movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

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Listen to a BBC Radio 4 “In Our Time” broadcast on Douglass 

EXIT BURBAGE – THE MAN WHO CREATED HAMLET ·

Listen on BBC Radio 3

Imagine where we’d be without Shakespeare’s plays. It’s difficult to contemplate now. But it was thanks to another man that many of them were brought to life. 

Today, Richard Burbage is a not a household name. But he should be. He’s the man for whom many of the great Shakespearean roles were created. One of the founding members of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, playing at the newly built Globe in 1599, he’s one of the foundations upon which British theatre was built. Andrew Dickson talks to leading actors, rummages among the archives and dissects some of the greatest parts in acting to discover Burbage’s crucial role – and realises that without Richard Burbage, there could be no Shakespeare.

Producer: Penny Murphy

PTP/NYC (POTOMAC THEATRE PROJECT):  ‘HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT’ AND STOPPARD’S ‘DOGG’S HAMLET’ AND ‘CAHOOT’S MACBETH’ (REVIEWS FROM NEW YORK) ·

By Bob Shuman

Historians, looking back at contemporary American theatre, will have to evaluate whether our stages were reflections of society or partisan distortions. Were our artists “living in the truth,” as former Czech president Václav Havel would ask, or were they politically motivated, sold out, blindsided, outfinanced, or unable to speak due to silencing opinion-makers, the market, or even Google, facebook, or twitter.  A work like Rob Ackerman’s Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson, from The Working Theater, which played off-Broadway, during June and July, sees America’s employed as powerless and compliant–and the boss as original and supremely intelligent, even while he demonstrates only basic knowledge.  In Christopher Shinn’s Dying City, which ran at Second Stage this spring and summer, the highlight is the storytelling, although the characters are types—the smart, contemporary woman, the sensitive, uncloseted gay actor, and the disturbed soldier—all meeting progressive expectations.  What audiences may not be questioning, though, is to what degree the arts in the U.S. are really free—and this is where a writer like Havel, whose rarely performed Vanek plays (three of them here, of four; banned during communism), are now running at PTP/NYC (Potomac Theatre Project) until August 4, alongside two short pieces by Beckett and Pinter, in Havel: The Passion of Thought.  Even if most Americans can not know the horror of life in Czechoslovakia, in the last century, one of the short plays in the evening, a two-hander called “Protest” is a pros-and-cons checklist for the conscience, universally true for anyone who must challenge authority, in any of its guises–or even only intends to send a tweet.  America itself has powerful censoring mechanisms, despite the First Amendment, strongly expressed in 1978 by Russian Nobelist and Soviet labor camp survivor, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, whom Thomas Farnan, in Human Events, reminds us, wrote that the media, Western news reporting,  “[endorses] ‘fashionable trends of thought and ideas’ while suppressing ‘independent-minded people from giving their contribution to public life.’” Solzhenitsyn was severely criticized—in fact, told to go back where he came from, like “the Squad” today–but his observation regarding “fashionable trends of thought and ideas” is essential when thinking about American arts.

 

“The Protest” is set in Prague, outside a lovely garden home, marked by flowering magnolias and gladiolas–in thirty-two shades–of a television and film writer (played robustly by Danielle Skraastad), who admits that she is “pushing fifty.” She must make a decision on bold action, regarding a court decision, thinking aloud to an old theatrical friend, a dissident (a non-judging David Barlow): “When the rest of us want to do something of ordinary human decency, we automatically turn to you as though you were some sort of agency for the conduct of moral matters.  Perverse, isn’t it? Sickening, isn’t it?”  Her choice is to regain her self-esteem, lost freedom, and honor, even if it means losing her job—or to continue living on “the path of accommodation” and “shameful compromise.”  She realizes that she must be made an example of, and punished cruelly, if she chooses the first option.  She would be the bad conscience of people who do not act, and who will smear her, ultimately thinking her decision stupid, nothing more.  The dilemma is not simply Eastern European, of course, and must be made not only by the accommodating characters in Dropping Gumballs on Luke Wilson (also set in the television industry), but also in other contexts, such as teachers’ rooms in academia, validating disproven conclusions on Darwin’s theory, for example, the Hollywood of #MeToo, and at publishers and theatre companies, among various jobs throughout the country, adherent to the common wisdom, as opposed to critical, independent thinking.

“Interview” may remind of Chekhov’s short story, “Misery,” where the need to express thoughts, explain oneself, becomes so urgent that the central character begins confiding in a least likely figure.  In Chekhov, this is a horse.  In Havel’s short play, the character is Vanek, who is asked to inform on himself.  Havel’s plays can have elements of absurdism—as they drink and munch peanuts–but he is not whimsical, and his writing can even sound like O’Neill’s realism. It is not lost on viewers, at Atlantic Stage 2, that the playwright does not advocate socialism, part of the current U.S. national debate (what other son of a builder do you know who does not advocate socialism and became president of his country?).  Havel’s characters are bored and drunk, living futile lives, without work ethic and devoid of meaning: “What about me?” says the crass, tormented brewmaster (Michael Laurence), “I’m only good enough to be the shit on which your fucking principles can grow so you can be a goddamn hero. . . . You’re gonna show off  . . .  about the way you handled barrels in a brewery! But what about me?  What can I go back to?  Huh? What future have I got?  What?”  In the plays, Havel works full circle—climax and catharsis always lead back to stagnation, point zero; contradiction (Vanek, for example, is expected to make friends but not become “chummy”) and repetition. The characters can never progress psychologically, much less spiritually, which they appear to want to do, even if they can only make pretense to commercial mimicry.

In “Private View” a couple (Christopher Marshall and Emily Kron) looks toward the West for its cues on everyday life, such as food, art, sex, parenting, and purchase of consumer goods.  The ideas have not grown organically out of their own culture, however, and the characters come across as earnest and empty fakes.  Although the PTP/NYC season 2019 centers on four writers, known for their contributions to the subject of human rights, the chief among them are Havel and Tom Stoppard, both of Czech origin (although Stoppard, for much of his life, has been a British citizen).  In “Private View,” the playwright most invoked, in Havel’s one act, is Ionesco, another Eastern European (in this case, from Romania, who settled in France).  Students and readers can sometimes not understand why artists will speak figuratively–in symbol, for example (a rhinoceros) or metaphor (a cabaret to represent Nazi Germany—the sad news of the death of Hal Prince has just been announced), instead of being direct and exposing the thing itself.  The explanation is usually, “Because it would be too painful”; another reason may that it is too dangerous.  The Vanek plays may seem to talk around what’s really going in a Communist satellite fifty years ago, which had led  PTP’s Co-Artistic Director Richard Romagnoli, in 1991, to add two further short plays in creating Havel: The Passion of Thought, by Pinter and Beckett.  Yet, even so, you may be able to hear the screaming: “Life is hard and the world is divided. Our country has been written off by everybody, nobody’s going to help us, we’re in a very bad way, and it’s only going to get worse–and you can’t change it!”

Pinter’s sobering play, “The New World Order,” takes the audience into a torture room, where assumptions are dismantled, as a hooded man listens to his captor’s threats, spoken as banalities: “He hasn’t got any idea at all of what we’re going to do to him.” Although the assassins are about as bored as the brewery workers in “Interview”—in fact, one seems to maliciously echo the brewmaster’s monologue in Havel’s play: “Before he came here he was a big shot, he never stopped shooting his mouth off”—the leader explains that they are “keeping the world safe for democracy.”  Beckett’s play, “Catastrophe,” actually written in honor of Havel—a work in which Pinter had also played as an actor–has especial bite and edge at PTP/NYC (the consummate direction for the Havel evening is by Richard Romagnoli).  The play (here, the speaking roles are, nontraditionally, played by two women, Madeline Ciocci and Emily Ballou, whose forward-march pacing give the play a fascist edge)–seems to be questioning how the media distorts—and makes fashionable–human rights’ victims—Havel and Solzhenitsyn, for examples, and Natalia Kaliada and Nikolai Khalezin, from Belarus Free Theatre, and Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot, to only begin a listing—who might say that what they were doing had nothing to do with becoming celebrities.

Although this review is being finished, at the end of July, during the second night of the Detroit Democratic debates, it should be mentioned that people can be fearful of socialism, despite its current fashionableness in the United States. One need only look at Sir Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet (known for its 15-minute rendition of Hamlet) and Cahoot’s Macbeth, probably a director’s nightmare (ably undertaken here by Cheryl Faraone), a complicated mosaic of different languages (Early Modern English, Modern English, as well as one the playwright has completely made up), utilizing a large cast. Additionally, as if a new society is being constructed during the plays, there are different settings and shifting set pieces, including huge, brutalist alphabet blocks, created for a Stalinist era (the design is by Mark Evancho; the three costume designers for the evenings are Glenna Ryer, Chris Romagnoli, and Rebecca Lafon;  and Hallie Zieselman designed the lighting). Amit Prakash, visiting assistant professor, Middlebury College,  has written, “In a society dominated by ideology, words are completely untethered from their meanings, shared human experience is always up for debate, and truth is as evasive as a hunted animal.”

Stoppard seems to see dislocation and language reconstruction as occurring due to changing ideology, and these plays appear to be giving a Stoppardian mirror image of Czechoslovakia, during the 1970s and 1980s (Ed Berman, who worked with the playwright at Almost Free Theatre in London, has also been consulted for Potomac Theater Project’s Stoppard plays). Although based on Shakespeare, the work is also influenced by Beckett, Havel, Wiggenstein, Pavel Kohout, detective novels, Ionesco, and the Theatre of the Absurd, to start.  One setting for Cahoots Macbeth is a home, which can seem unusual, given that plays are being performed there, instead of at a theatre.  Faraone writes, “forbidden to practice their art in public, one survival strategy (for artists, in Czechoslovakia) became performing Shakespeare in ‘apartment theatre.’” Such playing areas affirm what Kaliada has said, in interviews about stagings in another Eastern European country, Belarus (performances are given in apartments or at birthdays or weddings, to elude authorities).  Havel discusses how to evade them in “The Protest”–by hiding in a department store:  “You mingle with the crowd, then at the moment when they aren’t looking, you sneak into the bathroom and wait for about two hours. They become convinced you managed to sneak off through a side entrance and give up.”

What happens if you are caught?  Stoppard’s detective/government inspector (Tara Giordano, in a trench coat) explains:  “I must warn you that anything you say will be taken down and played back at your trial.”

For more info visit http://PTPNYC.org, Like them on Facebook at https://www.Facebook.com/pages/Potomac-Theatre-Project-PTP/32709392256, follow on Twitter at @ptpnyc (https://twitter.com/ptpnyc), and on Instagram at @ptpnyc.official (https://www.instagram.com/ptpnyc.official).         

The Atlantic Stage 2 is accessible from the A, C, E, L trains to 14 St./8 Ave. or the 1, 2, 3 trains to 14 St.

 © by Bob Shuman.  All rights reserved.  Production photos: Stan Barouh.

Press: David Gibbs, DARR Publicity

The cast for HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT includes David Barlow (PTP: No End of Blame, Victory, The Castle), Emily Kron (PTP: The Europeans, Sweet Tooth at Cherry Lane), Michael Laurence (Broadway: Talk Radio, Desire Under the Elms, NBC’s “Shades of Blue”), Christopher Marshall (PTP: The Possibilities, The After-Dinner Joke, Pity In History), Danielle Skraastad (Broadway: All My Sons, Hurricane Diane with Women’s Project & NYTW, The Architecture of Becoming with Women’s Project), Emily Ballou and Madeline Ciocci (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke).

The production team for HAVEL: THE PASSION OF THOUGHT includes Mark Evancho (Set Design), Hallie Zieselman (Lighting Design), Glenna Ryer (Costume Design), Sam Tompkins Martin (Props Design), Peter B. Schmitz and Adam Milano (Movement) and Devin Wein (Production Stage Manager).

The cast for DOGG’S HAMLET, CAHOOT’S MACBETH includes Matthew Ball (PTP: Pity In History, Pentecost), Denise Cormier (Broadway national tour The Graduate, Showtime’s “The Affair”), Tara Giordano (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, Vinegar Tom, Serious Money), Christo Grabowski (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, Pity In History, No End of Blame), Christopher Marshall (PTP: The Possibilities, The After-Dinner Joke, Pity In History), Peter B. Schmitz (PTP: Lovesong of the Electric Bear, Therese Raquin), Lucy Van Atta (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, Serious Money, Spatter Pattern), Olivia Christie (PTP: Brecht on Brecht), Will Koch, Emily Ma, Katie Marshall, Madeleine Russell (PTP: The After-Dinner Joke, The Possibilities), Lior Selve, Zach Varicchione and Connor Wright (PTP: Pity In History).

The production team for DOGG’S HAMLET, CAHOOT’S MACBETH includes Mark Evancho (Set Design), Hallie Zieselman (Lighting Design), Chris Romagnoli (Costume Design Dogg’s Hamlet), Rebecca LaFon (Costume Design Cahoot’s Macbeth), Sam Tompkins Martin (Props Design), Peter B. Schmitz and Adam Milano (Movement) and Alex Williamson (Production Stage Manager).

HIP TO HIP THEATRE COMPANY–SUMMER DATES & VENUES FOR 2019 SEASON TOUR OF FREE SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARKS ·

(From Andrea Alton, Alton PR and Production)

Hip to Hip Theatre Company Announces Summer Dates & Venues for 2019 Season Tour of Free Shakespeare in the Parks

A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard III

Running in Repertory July 24 – August 25 in Parks in all Five Boroughs, New Jersey and Long Island

Hip to Hip Theatre Company is pleased to announce their summer tour dates which will include performances in fifteen parks throughout Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, The Bronx, New Jersey and Long Island. The company’s 2019 Free Shakespeare in the Parks tour runs July 24 – August 25.

Audiences will have a chance to enjoy the romantic comedic romp, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (directed by S.C. Lucier), and the historic tragedy Richard III (directed by David Frederick Mold), under the stars. The two productions will perform in rotating repertory. Hip to Hip’s popular interactive children’s workshop “Kids & the Classics,” will be offered thirty minutes before each performance. Audience members are encouraged to bring a blanket or low chair, picnic fare and enjoy a Shakespeare play in the open air. No tickets are necessary.

Artistic Director Jason Marr, discussed this season’s play selection,  “Hip to Hip’s new radical adaptation of Richard III attempts to bridge the divide between the real man and the caricature the Tudors, aided and abetted by Shakespeare, perpetuated . . . With the discovery of Richard III’s remains . . . the exhumed skeleton reveals Richard had severe scoliosis, but it bears no suggestion that he was a hunchback with a withered arm and unequally sized legs.” 

The repertory cast includes Leah Alfieri, Kendall Devin Bell, Katie Fanning*, Rebecca Wei Hsieh, Kurt Kingsley*, Tristan Land, Axel Marr, Bree Marr, Jason Marr*, Joy Marr*, Josh Miccio, Austin Nguyen, Anuj Parikh, Sophia Parola, Patrick Singer and Colin Wulff*.

*appears courtesy of Actors Equity Association

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Four young lovers escape the tyranny of the court to find love in a magical forest. On the same night and in the same forest, the king and queen of the fairies declare war on each other and a company of amateur actors meet to rehearse a play. See what happens when a mischievous sprite called Puck weaves their three stories into one.
 
Richard III
After a long civil war, England enjoys a period of peace under King Edward. But Edward’s younger brother Richard, who helped him to the throne, grows restless in the shadows. Shakespeare’s searing drama chronicles the bloody rise and fall of the last English king to die on the battlefield.

Kids & the Classics
“Kids & the Classics” is the companion piece to Hip to Hip’s program of “Free Shakespeare in the Parks.” This free interactive workshop is offered 30 minutes before every performance, and is designed for children ages 4 to 12. It gives children a chance to interact with the text by previewing the characters and situations and creating links between the text and their own lives.

2019 Performance Schedule

*Kids & the Classics, interactive workshop begins 30 minutes prior to each performance.
 
Wednesday, July 24 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Flushing Meadows Corona Park (@ the Unisphere)
 
Thursday, July 25 @ 8:00 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Cunningham Park (Union Turnpike & 196th Street)
 
Friday, July 26 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
BROOKLYN Fort Greene Park (Monument Steps) 
 
Saturday, July 27 @ 5:00 pm – Richard III
MANHATTAN Jackie Robinson Park Bandshell (85 Bradhurst Avenue @ 148th Street)

Tuesday, July 30 @ 8:00 pm – Rain date

Wednesday, July 31 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
BROOKLYN Bushwick Inlet Pop-Up Park (50 Kent Avenue)

Thursday, August 1 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Crocheron Park (35th Avenue & Corbett Road) 

Friday, August 2 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
BROOKLYN Fort Greene Park (Monument Steps) 
 
Saturday, August 3 @ 5:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
STATEN ISLAND Alice Austen House (1000 Richmond Terrace)
 
Sunday, August 4 @ 5:00 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Boulevard)

Wednesday, August 7 @ 7:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
JERSEY CITY Newport on the Green (14th St & River Drive S.) 
 
Thursday, August 8 @ 7:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS LeFrak City (59-17 Junction Boulevard, Corona)
 
Friday, August 9 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Voelker Orth Museum (149-19 38th Avenue, Flushing)
 
Saturday, August 10 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Gantry Plaza State Park (4-09 47th Road) 
 
Sunday, August 11 @ 5:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Boulevard)

Tuesday, August 13 @ 7:00 pm – Rain date

Wednesday, August 14 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Sunnyside Gardens Park (48-21 39th Avenue @ 49th Street)
 
Thursday, August 15 @ 8:00 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Cunningham Park (Union Turnpike & 196th Street)
 
Friday, August 16 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Voelker Orth Museum (149-19 38th Avenue, Flushing)
 
Saturday, August 17 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Gantry Plaza State Park (4-09 47th Road) 
 
Sunday, August 18 – 6:00 pm – Richard III
BRONX Van Cortlandt Park (Broadway & 245th Street) 

Tuesday, August 20 @ 8:00 pm – Rain date
 
Wednesday, August 21 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
QUEENS Sunnyside Gardens Park (48-21 39th Avenue) 
 
Thursday, August 22 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
QUEENS Crocheron Park (35th Avenue & Corbett Road) 

Friday, August 23 @ 7:30 pm – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
SOUTHAMPTON Agawam Park (25 Pond Lane) 
 
Saturday, August 24 @ 7:30 pm – Richard III
SOUTHAMPTON Agawam Park (25 Pond Lane) 

Sunday, August 25 @ 5:00 pm – Rain date

About Hip to Hip Theatre Company Hip to Hip, now in its 13th year, is dedicated to stimulating and developing interest in the theatre arts in underserved communities by providing free, family-friendly, professional productions of popular classics, and free theatre workshops for children, in public spaces. 

www.hiptohip.org
www.facebook.com/HiptoHipTheatre
www.twitter.com/HiptoHipTheatre

Photos (from top): Demelza Leffert, Ann Price

 

OUTDOOR SHAKESPEARE: THE PIONEERS OF A SUMMER TRADITION ·

(Georgianna Ziegler’s article appeared in Shakespeare & Beyond, 7/9; via Pam Green.)

Shakespeare by the sea, on the river, in the park or garden, on the common – in the summertime Shakespeare’s plays are everywhere outdoors! High-profile shows in New York’s Central Park or at Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival may come to mind for active theatergoers today, but the inspiration for this kind of outdoor performance actually came from semi-amateur theatricals, often led by women, in England and America in the late 19th century.

Lady Archibald Campbell, Agnes Booth, and As You Like It

One of the earliest and most influential of these productions was organized by Janey Seville Pastoral Players. In 1884 and 1885, they put on productions of As You Like It at the Coombe Warren estate in Surrey, with proceeds going to charity. (The Folger Shakespeare Library owns an archive of ima Callander, better known as Lady Archibald Campbell.

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HAMILTON CLANCY ON THE ROAD: SitPL’S ARTISTIC DIRECTOR TALKS NYC’S DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (DOT), 90% CHUTZPAH, AND THE MOST DYNAMIC ASSOCIATION OF ARTISTS IN THE WORLD ·

Hamilton Clancy (producer/director/actor/theatre (producer/director/actor/theatre maker) has been making theatre in and around Manhattan for the last 25 years and is the current/founding artistic  director of The Drilling Company where he oversees both Shakespeare in the Parking Lot as well as Bryant Park Shakespeare. Additionally Mr. Clancy is the artistic director of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival in Ridgefield, CT.  Mr. Clancy began working with Wynn Handmann at The  American Place Theatre in the early 1990’s and was an original member of the interactive experimental Offerings, also at The  American Place Theatre. After working regionally and with several  other  downtown troupes, Mr. Clancy founded the Drilling Company in 1999.  With The Drilling Company Mr. Clancy has commissioned and developed over 350 new short plays,  producing 21 projects over the past 15 years, celebrating playwrights of  social conscience.  Brian Dykstra, P Seth Bauer, Eric Henry Sanders, C. Denby  Swanson, Trish Harnetiaux, Will Eno, and Vern Theissen are a few of the outstanding writers Mr. Clancy has had the privilege to commission, produce, and direct. Additionally Mr. Clancy has developed and produced 9 world  premieres, including the 2013 NY Times Critic’s Pick, The  Norwegians, which was originally produced and developed by Mr. Clancy, and now published by DPS.  Mr. Clancy is responsible for FREE Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, in Lower Manhattan, offering full productions of Shakespeare plays in a parking lot on the Lower East Side.  Additionally Mr. Clancy is responsible for inaugural and current productions of Bryant Park Shakespeare, and for seven years, oversaw the  development of new works at The Drilling Company Theatre for New Plays  on 78th Street, in Manhattan.  Mr. Clancy has written and received  grants  from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Department of Cultural  affairs, Brad and Melissa Coolidge Foundation, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and Select Equity Group.

His feature  film and  television credits include HBO’s Wizard of Lies (2016), Billions (2016), Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015), Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, American Gangster, The Better Angels, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Hamilton can be seen as Kowalski in Orange Is the New Black on Netflix, among many others. He was raised in New Orleans, LA and is the  proud  father of Joseph and husband to the  remarkable Karen Kitz-Clancy.

Artistic Director HAMILTON CLANCY tools through Bob Shuman’s SV interview, as Romeo and Juliet, directed by Lukas Raphael, premieres at Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, 7/11 (to play through 7/27).

What does the AD of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot–known for plays performed outside during the hottest days of summer–do during the winter?

For many years we’ve focused on new work during the winter months.  Last year, for example, we premiered Gabriel, by C. Denby Swanson. We also, customarily, sponsor new play readings.  We have a Bare Bard  series, too, in which we gather actors to read Shakespeare plays aloud,  without rehearsal.  Having developed an accomplished company over  some  seasons, Bare Bard serves as a winter rejuvenation, which can sometimes be revelatory and inspire our choices for the summer months.

Which came first:  Shakespeare in the Parking Lot or the Drilling Company? 

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot (SitPL) came first.  Shakespeare in the Parking Lot was begun by the legendary company Expanded Arts, which coined the term.  They ran a very active storefront theatre space on  the Lower East Side, for about eight years, in the early ‘90s.  When the  storefront lost its lease, the founder moved upstate, and it looked like  Shakespeare in the Parking Lot would be relegated to the distant  memory of Off-Off-Broadway, downtown.  But a group of intrepid actors decided they would continue SitPL.

The Drilling Company began in 1999. We began and thrived for many years producing short play projects.  In 2000, I was invited to be part of  the continuing Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  The Drilling Company’s early and continuing mission was to bring diverse audiences together for a  common theatrical event.  SitPL perfectly connected to this mission.

We began coproducing SitPL in 2001, and, in 2006, we took over  producing it completely, despite a complicated gentrification process  transforming the  Lower East Side.

Describe the most significant challenge for Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.

In 2012, Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA) was approved  by the New York City Council, which meant that land was suddenly  available for development.  SPURA broke am almost fifty-five year stalemate between city government and developers, and a  feeding  frenzy began, which meant that the parking lot, at Ludlow and Broom Streets–where SitPL had been performing for twenty years–would be no more.

How did you find the Clemente Parking Lot, where the company is currently performing?

We  literally spent hours and hours and hours walking around the Lower  East Side looking for a parking lot. The only other possibilities were giant school yards and school parking lots.  In the first twenty years of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, we always performed in a public parking lot.  Accent on public.  There were no gates.  No locks. (The biggest challenge, honestly, has been the lock on the gate.) All of our other options, since then, have been with institutions who are maintaining private property and, as such, our negotiations are more complicated than with the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).  In  2015, however, we knocked on  the  door  of  the Clemente, and they welcomed us into their parking lot.

You also direct plays in Bryant Park.  How and when did that begin?                                                                                                     

Bryant Park came to see Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  They dug it.  They read in The New York Times that DOT was hassling us to “pay” for  the parking spaces we were using, when performing.  So they wanted to reach out to us and invite us to begin performing Shakespeare at Bryant  Park.  Specifically, the visionary was a man named Ethan Lercher, who  had been with Bryant Park for many years.                    

Part of the history of Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in Central Park deals with confrontations with the city of New York.  What has your experience been like, dealing with public authorities in Manhattan? 

That answer is part of an ongoing story, because we still don’t have our Delacorte  Theatre, and we are searching for our Robert  Moses (NYC Parks Commissioner).  I can say we’ve had the best of times and the  most ridiculous of times.  Financial challenges, of course, are ongoing, because the idea that something FREE for the public should also enjoy FREE occupancy cost is anathema.  Nevertheless, we have been very  fortunate on several occasions when city luminaries, such as  Council woman Margaret  Chinn and  former City Council speaker, Christine Quinn, jumped in to save us when we were imperiled.

At the end of the shows, a hat is passed—does your work need funding or do you prefer things as they are? 

Our work needs funding.

Over the years–and currently–it has survived on 90% artist chutzpah, 8% public contribution, and 2% government funding.  We have also been tremendously fortunate to add Bank of America to our list of supporters, which sounds as if we have entered some rarefied level of backing.  Really, our Bank of America sponsorship comes through Bryant Park Picnics–so we are the happy recipients of their generosity towards Bryant Park.

What has really held Shakespeare in the Parking Lot back, though, is our  unwillingness to allow it to be anything else but FREE.  Corporate sponsors can be unsure of supporting something in a “Parking Lot”–which may not appear glamorous enough for a theatrical venture in Manhattan.

The professionals, who  grace  our  stage, however, are accomplished in  theatre, film, and television, even if Shakespeare in the Parking Lot seems  an unlikely arena for Hollywood scouts to prowl for new talent to put in  their next indie feature or new Netflix  series. That is not how our industry works, and I don’t know if it ever really did.

Our shows are a collective gift to the community.  One hundred percent  of  those who are sure about Shakespeare in the Parking Lot have felt our  magical nights of theatre, unfolding in the most ordinary of circumstances, where community, in the most simple of ways, comes together.

Always Shakespeare?

Always. Some have suggested we branch out. To me, though, Shakespeare  is a rock star who still rocks, whom we’re still catching up with, as a  culture.  Our business is to breathe life into the plays, some of the great wonders of mankind–but we don’t takes sides in the “Who was Shakespeare?” debate.  We leave it to others to fight over what’s controversial on the subject.

What do you find are the advantages of working in a parking lot?

Well, the first advantage is the lowered expectations.  People don’t think they will be touched.  It gives you the opportunity to make magic with very little.

Secondly, there is a surprising intimacy because the audience is so close. Lastly,  there is theatricality, because the actors have to speak out to be heard.

What was your first outdoor production, as an actor?

I was lucky enough to be cast as Orlando, in the Rakka-Thamm (RT) production of As You Like It, at Washington Square ParkGorilla Rep was an offshoot if RT.  They were the early “move-them-around-the-park” FREE Shakespeare.  In one scene, I would drop out of a tree and ask for food.  One night I was doing that, and before anyone could say the next line, a little girl raced onto the stage, grabbed an apple from the basket in front of us, and offered it to me.

That was 1991–and that’s why theatre is special.

How do you get used to working/rehearsing in a public space?

That’s an interesting question. I don’t think you ever really get used to it.

The challenge is to work on discovery in the early part of the process, so you can use the latter half to stage the play.

Do you rehearse outside, during the summer–how does that work?

We start inside, but after about ten days, we find an outdoor space.

How do you personally work with actors, since you are one yourself?

I give actors a lot of freedom.

And I try to listen.

Every actor we work is a famous movie star–to me.

Treat actors like movie stars, not puppets.

Do you think differently when casting Shakespeare in the Parking Lot than you would for a more traditional production?

Absolutely. You need warrior-actors. Big circuits with vocal equipment. But there is zero space for those who are cursed with pride.

When I was first asked to work in the parking lot, I called an actress who I knew had played Desdemona.  She told me to not do it.  There were no dressing rooms, too little rehearsal, and it was too hot.  She had a horrible experience.

Now I had done Baltimore dinner theatre, where you served drinks at intermission and worked for tips.  I was still working catering jobs at the time, as a sanitation captain.  All pretense of dignity had been stripped away, so the parking lot was an easy lift for me.

Our profession is a rigorous life, no matter anyone’s fortune in it.  It bruises the souls of so many.  A parking lot actor will know that, but have enough grit to go on.

Your favorite role as an actor?

Hamlet

Why?

It’s the greatest role ever written by a playwright for an actor to play.

Other than that, no reason.

Must good stage work be political? 

It’s difficult to bring oneself up against reality, in 2019, on the planet Earth, and not be political in some way.  Good stage work should reveal current reality–it should reflect the times.  I would propose that endeavors to not be political are just efforts to keep the patient  asleep.  There are many who have this interest, and it is, perhaps, more commercially viable to be an agent of anesthesia, rather than of awakening.  Our political gestures, in art, may not always succeed.  But our successes, as artists, are judged via many, many vectors and variables.  Wallace Shawn says in My Dinner with Andre, “I try to bring myself up against some bits of reality and to share  that with an audience.”  If we are attempting to awaken the sleeping patient, in  our audience, then we are, at least, working in a valid direction. 

Do you find yourself working with the same people—either with those who work on the stage or behind it?

Very purposely. It’s an always-evolving family. People come and go, but I’m interested in the products of associations that can last a lifetime, not the run of a play.  Here’s what I wrote on a napkin, a long time ago:  “The Drilling Company is the most dynamic association of artists in the world.”  

Those who attended Henry the Sixth, Part Three, in August, a few years back, would have seen you beating a drum during different sections of the play.  From a directorial point of view, why did you decide to do this?

The play was about war–the build up to it and the excitement of it.  The drum was a blessed Indian (First People’s) drum.

I wanted the rhythm of war to never leave the audience.

Most important event or influence that prepared you for your work?

Wynn Handmann. I’m definitely a disciple–and, occasionally, I like to hope I’m one of the apostles, but Wynn (Artistic Director of the American Place Theatre) doesn’t think or talk that way.

I would have done nothing, in my  life or career, if I had not had the good fortune to stumble into his  class.  I was fortunate, as a young  actor, to score a role in a play at  The American Place–actually surprising Wynn himself.

Honestly, Wynn never did  anything for me, personally, except to welcome me into that classroom.  But I listened.  And I met a core of extraordinary artists.  I saw that the key to creating extraordinary things was the collection of a group of extraordinary people, seeking a common goal, in a single room or pocket of time.

So, I don’t think I myself am particularly exceptional, other than to have been fortunate enough to have had the gift of the others–who  have  worked with me on our shows.

What’s the worst job you ever took to keep yourself afloat as an artist? 

If  you work in catering it becomes more a question of which catering job  forced you to swallow your dignity the most.

So I have  stories I can tell, but  everyone who  works in catering has them.

It’s a psychotic industry that is as addictive to the struggling artist as crack  cocaine or meth.

And I don’t think you beat it. You endure it .

But my personal mantra  is, “All Good Comes  From Catering.”

And in point of fact, The Drilling Company got its original 501(c)(3) status  through a generous grant from The Great Performances Catering  Company, run by Liz Neumark.  So, back to  you, Liz Neumark.  Their generosity helped me learn how to fish.

One piece of advice that you would give an artist trying to break into the business today?

It’s about who you work with.  So find people who you can work with well–and work with them, not the others, if you can help it.

Don’t be too disappointed by nonacceptance.

You’re not good or bad.  You’re who you are–and trying to get better.  If you’re up for doing that for your whole damn life, you’re okay.

Best play you’ve seen in the city in the last year, besides one of your own?

The Ferryman. Hands down.

Irish Rep’s O’Casey Trilogy was the most impressive feat of  producing  and theatre I’ve seen Off-Broadway in years.  Remarkable excellence.

What’s different about being a professional in the Arts than you ever suspected during your training?

The hopelessness of it all.

It’s just how it is.  Once you get comfortable with that–and you never really  do–but once you make peace with that, well, it’s just something that is  antithetical to training.

Why would you train to do something that is hopeless?

I don’t know, but we do.

It’s just that very, very, very few trainers ever, ever say the truth out loud.

One production you were associated with, whether from Shakespeare in the Parking Lot or elsewhere, that you didn’t want to see end.

The Norwegians.

168 performances.

We could still be running that play.

What’s the first play you ever saw—how old were you and where did you see it?

Peter Pan.  I saw it in the gymnasium of Ursuline Academy in New Orleans.  I believe I was seven years old.  My aunt, who was a senior in high school at the time, was playing Peter Pan.  I didn’t know it then, but  my father was backstage (her brother-in-law) pulling a rope and making  her fly.

Magic!

(c) 2019, 2017 by Hamilton Clancy (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

Visit Shakespeare in the Parking Lot 

Visit the Drilling Company 

Clancy bio:  The State of Shakespeare

Photos (from top): This Week in Shakespeare, The New York Times; Shakespeare in the Parking Lot/The Drilling Company (Jonathan Slaff, Aifric Chriodain); Shuman; TimeOut; WynnHandmanStudio.com; Lee Wexler; Rob Wilson

Press: Jonathan Slaff

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot will present “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Lukas Raphael, July 11 to 27 at La Plaza @ The Clemente Parking Lot, 114 Norfolk Street. This popular New York summer institution is now in its 25th year. Its concept–presenting Shakespeare plays with a “poor theater” aesthetic in a working parking lot–is now widely imitated around the US and around the world, with productions as far away as New Zealand. The Drilling Company, Artistic Director Hamilton Clancy, has produced the attraction since 2005.

“Romeo and Juliet” will be performed July 11 to 27, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:00 PM. All admission is free. Seats are available on a first come first served basis, with audience members often arriving early to secure a place. Audience members are welcome to bring their own chairs. Once seats are gone, blankets are spread out. No one has ever been turned away and there’s never a wait for tickets.

HOW DO I GO TO SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARKING LOT? 

* Performances are at: Parking Lot of The Clemente, 114 Norfolk Street (E. side of Norfolk St. between Delancey and Rivington). 
* Shows are Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:00 PM and admission is FREE
* Seats are available on a first come first served basis, with audience members often arriving early to secure a place. You are welcome to bring your own chair. Once seats are gone, blankets are spread out.
* We’ve never turned anyone away and there’s never a wait for tickets.
* Subways to The Clemente: F to Delancey Street, M to Essex Street. MAP

WHERE AND WHEN:
July 11 to 27, 2019
La Plaza @ The Clemente Parking Lot, 114 Norfolk Street
FREE
Subways: F to Delancey Street, M to Essex Street.
Presented by The Drilling Company
Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:00 PM
Running time 100 minutes

SHAKESPEARE: ‘THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN’ (LISTEN NOW ON BBC RADIO 3–LINK BELOW) ·

 

Listen

This and the Two Gentlemen of Verona are the least performed of the Shakespeare cannon and I wanted to see the progression between the first and the last. It is for this reason that I have given this production a modern feel in terms of sound and music. I wanted to record them with the same actors entirely on location to give the sense of a strolling company, making the most of the countryside around enabling them to be as honest to the story as they possibly could be.

On the day planned for his wedding to Hippolyta, Duke Theseus of Athens is petitioned by three queens to go to war against King Creon of Thebes, who has deprived their dead husbands of proper burial rites. In Thebes, the ‘two noble kinsmen’, Palamon and Arcite, realize that their own hatred of Creon’s tyranny must be put aside while their native city is in danger, but in spite of their valour in battle it is Theseus who is victorious. Imprisoned in Athens, the cousins catch sight of Hippolyta’s sister, Emilia, and both fall instantly in love with her. Arcite is set free, but disguises himself rather than return to Thebes, while Palamon escapes with the help of the Jailer’s Daughter, who loves him. Meeting each other, the kinsmen agree that mortal combat between them must decide the issue, but they are discovered by Theseus who is persuaded to revoke his sentence of death and instead decrees that a tournament shall decide which cousin is to be married to the indecisive Emilia and which is to lose his head. The Jailer’s Daughter has been driven mad by unrequited love, but accepts her former suitor when he pretends to be Palamon. Before the tournament Arcite makes a lengthy invocation to Mars, while Palamon prays to Venus and Emilia to Diana – for victory to go to the one who loves her best. Although Arcite triumphs, he is thrown from his horse before the death sentence on Palamon can be carried out, and with his last breath bequeaths Emilia to his friend.

JAILER’S DAUGHTER ….. Lyndsey Marshal 
EMILIA ….. Kate Phillips 
PALAMON ….. Blake Ritson 
ARCITE ….. Nikesh Patel 
THESEUS ….. Ray Fearon 
HIPPOLYTA ….. Emma Fielding 
JAILER ….. Hugh Ross 
PIRITHIOUS ….. Daniel Ryan 
WOOER ….. Oliver Chris 
QUEEN 1 ….. Susan Salmon 
QUEEN 2 ….. Sara Markland 
QUEEN 3/DOCTOR ….. Jane Whittenshaw 
COUNTRYMAN 1/FRIEND ….. Sam Dale 
ARTESIUS/COUNTRYMAN 2 ….. Carl Prekopp 
COUNTRYMAN 3/BROTHER ….. Pip Donaghy

Music composed and performed by Tom Glenister and sung by Emma Mackey and Tom Glenister