Tuesday, August 9, 2011

It's Summertime and There Is Bard Aplenty

Maura Clement, Valeri Mudek, Nance Williamson, Gabra Zackman, Kate Eastman Katie Hartke in the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival production of "The Comedy of Errors." Photo by William Marsh


would summer in the theater be without the Bard? Fortunately, no one has to consider such an eventuality, for there is “Shakespeare in the Park(ing) Lot” and then some.

While “Shakespeare in the Park” (“Measure for Measure” and “All’s Well That Ends Well”) recently shuttered in the Delacorte Theater in Manhattan’s Central Park, The Drilling Company’s “Hamlet” is on through 13 Aug. in downtown Manhattan in a parking lot – yes, a parking lot – at the corner of Ludlow and Broome streets. Like its park counterpart, it is free.

North of the city, on the grounds of an estate at Boscobel, New York, the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is offering its version of “Hamlet” along with “The Comedy of Errors” in repertory with the distinctly non-Shakespearean “Around the World in 80 Days” through 4 Sept.

Amanda Dillard as Ophelia and Alessandro Colla as Hamlet in the Drilling Company’s “Shakespeare In The Park(ing) Lot” production of “Hamlet.” Photo by Lee Wexler.

Meanwhile, thanks to the efforts of such disparate interests as the Lincoln Center Festival, Park Avenue Armory and Ohio State University, the Royal Shakespeare Company has been in New York performing five Shakespeare plays for the last few weeks (through 14 Aug.).

To stage “As You Like It,” “Julius Caesar,” “King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Winter’s Tale,” the world’s premier Shakespearean company has brought to bear an ensemble of 44 actors, its artistic teams, as well as a specially constructed full-scale replica of its home at Stratford-upon-Avon, inside the cavernous walls of the armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall. The rare visit commemorates the RSC’s 50th anniversary.(See a video at http://www.bit.ly/qU8RUJ and http://www.bit.ly/pmSwLk)

Visit http://http://www.hvshakespeare.org/ to learn more about the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival; http://www.shakespeareintheparkinglot.com/ to learn more about The Drilling Company’s “Hamlet” and http://http://www.blogger.com/www.bit.ly/nlkb6E to learn more about the Royal Shakespeare Company's visit at the Lincoln Center Festival.

Rising Mercury Also Attracts Elements on the Fringes
Christine Campbell and Greg Horton in "Chasing Heaven," one of the plays in FringeNYC. Photo by Dixie Sheridan.

GOING right up to the edge and sometimes over it decidedly can be exciting. Such excitement awaits in the intense concentration of hip, nouvelle theatrical experience provided by summer fringe festivals.

The festivals are short in duration and long on events, bringing a wide range of companies and theater styles to sites all over their city’s maps. They cover subject matter – including the ususal suspects of politics/race/religion/sexuality/the healthcare system, plus comedy, dance and standup – from just about every corner of life.

There is plenty of avant-garde theater in New York City, as witnessed by the many local acts on display at East to Edinburgh, which wrapped on 31 July. East to Edinburgh is a preview of sorts of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. Also celebrating the offbeat in theater is the 16-day New York International Fringe Festival (or FringeNYC.)

What do Edinburgh fringe audiences have to look forward to through 29 Aug? Quite a bit, actually (around 1,300 performaces), including “Naked in a Fishbowl.” The improvised sitcom, based on a weekly Web show, addresses topics that range from sex and stuffed chicken to cheating spouses. The talent behind it is a group of women on stage weekly at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. (See video at http://www.nakedinafishbowl.com/index.php/site/episodes/).

"GI Joe Jared," starring Billy Weimer, Kerry Fitzgibbons and Tiffany May McRae, plays both East to Edinburgh and Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo from Awe Creative Group.

“Naked in a Fishbowl” and the 14 other works in East to Edinburgh, including several others from New York-based companies/artists, are also in Edinburgh fringe. All make the cut because the 64-year-old festival, which is credited with coining the term fringe to mean theater outside of the mainstream, is famously democratic. As its Web site puts it, all are welcome who have “a story to tell and a venue willing to host them.”

Hence, prize-winning poet Alexandra Zelman-Doring has a space where audiences can witness two actors improvise an argument about the meaning of theater in “To Hold An Apple.” And attempting to tear down the theater’s fourth wall in an absurdist interactive way, while also questioning the role of audience and presenter is the raison d’ĂȘtre of “rogerandtom” from Personal Space Theatrics.

An experimental mix of video, sound and live performance is the notion behind Quattro Gatti Theatre Company’s “Radio Deluxembourg.” While the sci-fi rock ’n' roll comedy was welcome into the bosom of Edinburgh fringe, its producers had to resort to fundraising to get the production across the pond, proving that an open-door policy does not mean that all and sundry can actually participate. (See video at http://www.harmswayinc.net/RD/RADIO_DELUXEMBOURG/Home.html).

New Mexico-based The Arden Players are performing “God’s Fool” at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Photo from The Arden Players.

Unlike the Edinburgh fringe, FringeNYC is not democratic; there is a juried application procedure. Audiences can take in choreographer Carlos A. Cruz Velazquez’s stories about loneliness, loss, and laughter in “..unwanted” knowing that it had to weather a vetting process. (See video at http://www.vimeo.com/25103509)

The choreographer's dance piece is one of more than 1,000 performances from more than 200 companies from around the world that will be staged at various venues in downtown Manhattan during FringeNYC’s run through 28 Aug.

Be on guard, too, for murder and mayhem in “The Eternal Husband,” by Nat Cassidy based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Visit http://www.edfringe.com/ to learn more about Edinburgh Festival Fringe; http://www.fringenyc.org/ to learn more about FringeNYC, and
http://www.59e59.org/ to learn out more about “East To Edinburgh.

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