Summer and Shakespeare go together like surf and turf or peaches and cream and the theater companies across the Lower Hudson Valley are cooking up productions to be served al fresco from now into August.
From a Shakespearean stint for Tallman Park in Palisades to a historic Garrison house with Shakespeare on the side to the bard in a Girl Scout house, there is no lack of chances to feast.
If you’re willing to head to Manhattan, the options expand exponentially, with the Royal Shakespeare Company coming to the Park Avenue Armory with five plays over six weeks, two plays in Central Park, and a “Henry V” that will have cast and audience crossing by boat from England (Battery Park) to Agincourt (Governor’s Island).
In chronological order, first on the bill of fare — consider it an amuse bouche — is also a first for Rockland County: Plays presented June 3 and 4 in the stone amphitheater in Tallman Mountain State Park in Palisades.
The Children’s Shakespeare Theater performs “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” June 3 and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” June 4.
June 3 at 6, it’s “Abridged,” the madcap, hilarious spin through all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. It was a crowd favorite when performed in April by The Strange Bedfellows, a mix of CST parents, fans, friends and alumni, some of whom are professional actors. Diana Green, the group’s artistic director, visionary and driving force, plays Hamlet.
Green says they hit it out of the park in April, albeit inside the cozy confines of Palisades Presbyterian Church, CST’s home. This time, they’ll have an actual park out of which to hit it.
Originally written for three actors, Green will use 20, to lighten each actor’s load and give more people a chance to participate.
June 4 at 4 p.m., CST’s teen troupe, The Rogue Players, present “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” featuring Blauvelt’s Tess Kelly as the oversized Sir John Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s most-beloved characters.
Kelly, weeks from her Tappan Zee High School graduation, says the man in the impossibly large fat suit tops the list of CST characters she has played, one that includes Cordelia in “King Lear,” a witch in “Macbeth” and Dogberry in “Much Ado About Nothing.”
This “Merry Wives” is set in the 1950s, with the wives akin to Lucy and Ethel from “I Love Lucy” and a Falstaff whom Kelly models on an Elvis impersonator.
“He’s got such a big personality that it’s hard to overshoot,” the faux Falstaff says.
It’s not clear who proposed summer Shakespeare at Tallman, but Clark Alexandre, the park’s manager, wasn’t a hard sell.
“I loved seeing Shakespeare in the park in Buffalo, and this community loves the arts,” he says. “This is another great use for the park.”
Free. In the stone amphitheater, just to the left of the entrance to the park, off Rockland Road, Palisades. 845-826-2623. (Photo by Carucha Meuse/The Journal News)
The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival marks a milestone 25th year of magical evenings on a bluff next to the Boscobel mansion in Garrison with three productions, two of which are by the bard.
And they’ll start things off with an appetizer sampler at the 25th anniversary benefit at 5 p.m. June 11, with a preview of the season, a live auction and a “lawn party with the 2011 company.” Tickets start at $200.
Then it’s on to the smorgasbord of theater under a state-of-the-art tent with commanding views of West Point and the Hudson Highlands.
“The Comedy of Errors,” directed by Kurt Rhoads, opens June 18; “Around the World in 80 Days,” directed by Christopher V. Edwards, opens June 25; and “Hamlet,” directed by festival artistic director Terrence O’Brien, opens July 2.
The shows will then run in repertory through Sept. 4.,with performances every day but Monday.
When prompted, O’Brien, a man more inclined to look forward than back, points to a 1999 production of “Titus Andronicus” as a turning-point for the company.
“I think we’re probably more skillful than we were then, but there’s something about it, that — for where we were then — ‘Titus’ was a very big leap for us. It took us into a new place. But I really most like what I happen to be doing.”
Like directing “Hamlet” for the first time.
“There’s no way to overstate what it does to you when you start to look at it every day,” O’Brien says. “It’s so potent. And endless. There’s no way that you can completely understand any moment of it because the minute you do, you don’t understand something else. I just love that he keeps you so uncertain.”
Having put 25 years into the festival, O’Brien has directed some plays, like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” more than once.
“In some ways, it’s like an old friend who doesn’t change,” he says. “You change. But they’re solid and you can reflect off of it and see who you are in the context of something that’s more immutable and eternal.”
$21 to 49. At the Boscobel Restoration, Route 9D, Garrison. www.hvshakespeare.org. 845-265-9575. (Photo by Tania Savayan/The Journal News: Mike Borrelli as Antipholus of Ephesus and Gabra Zackman as Dromio of Ephesus rehearse a scene from “The Comedy of Errors” for the 25th season of the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in a rehearsal room at Manhattan’s Atlantic Theater.)
No holds bard
Rockland Shakespeare Company presents the 14th annual production, “The Tempest,” at 7 p.m., July 8-10, and 15-17.
Director Christopher Plummer & Co. have made a name for themselves with bard-bending mashups: “The Comedy of Errors” meets “Pirates of the Caribbean,” or “Romeo & Juliet” meet “Star Wars.”
This year’s “Tempest” — a show that has been on the RSC short list for years — won’t have a theme, per se: Set on a deserted island, the land of Caliban, Plummer says it will have the feel of “Lost,” with characters wearing all sorts of different period costumes.
Free. In the amphitheater courtyard at SUNY Rockland Community College, 145 College Road, Suffern. www.rocklandshakespearecompany.com. 845-574-4471.
As you condense it
The Port Chester Council for the Arts and The Port Chester Recreation Department present “As You Like It,” directed by Tal Aviezer, Aug 11-13 in the Girl Scout in House Port Chester’s Lyons Park.
Aviezer calls it “one of the big favorite comedies” with some of the great lines in the canon, including Jacques’ seven-ages-of-man speech, beginning: “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances…”
Aviezer will trim the text to keep it under two hours, but favorite speeches will remain. He and production designer Emma Green see it in modern-dress “hopefully with lots of light fabric involved to keep the actors comfortable in August.”
This production may get an out-of-town tryout, possibly previewing in Armonk and Rye Brook a week earlier, but those plans are not confirmed.
Free, but donations suggested. In the Girl Scout House in the corner of Lyons Park, Port Chester. www.portchestershakespeare.org. 914-414-1226.
Musical ‘Much Ado’
Shakespeare on the Sound returns to Greenwich’s Baldwin Park with “Much Ado About Nothing” — the story of battling lovers Benedick and Beatrice — July 5-10. Director Joanna Settle once again teams with Stew and Heidi Rodewald who’ve written new music and songs. Says Settle: “We will ride the story into an unpredictable night when love is found, lost, and then found again. We will dance ‘til we drop, sing song after song, and emerge from the night of hard truths with new joys.”
Free, but a donation of $20 ($10 for students, seniors) is suggested. Roger Sherman Baldwin Park is at the foot of Arch Street, Greenwich. www.shakespeareonthesound.org.
Derek Jacobi ends a run as “King Lear” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on June 5. Details, www.bam.org.
That clears the decks for an absolute British invasion: The Royal Shakespeare Company’s six-week, five-play residency at The Park Avenue Armory — presenting “Julius Caesar,” “As You Like It,” “King Lear,” “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Winter’s Tale” from July 6 to Aug. 14, part of Lincoln Center Festival. Details at www.lincolncenterfestival.org.
Kitt scores ‘All’s Well’
At the Public Theater’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park, this summer’s offerings — in repertory from June 6 through July 30 — are “Measure for Measure” directed by David Esbjornson (“The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?) with Tony-winner John Cullum (“On the Twentieth Century,” “Shenandoah”) and “All’s Well That Ends Well,” directed by Daniel Sullivan (last summer’s “The Merchant of Venice”), which will have original music by Armonk’s Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Tom Kitt (“Next to Normal”). Free tickets are distributed daily. Go to the Shakespeare in the Park website. (Photo by Joan Marcus: Annie Parisse and John Cullum in “All’s Well That Ends Well.”)
Will Hank Cinq sink?
New York Classical Theatre presents “Henry V” as a moveable feast from July 5-15. The play begins at Battery Park at 7 p.m., but when the former Prince Hal leaves England (Battery Park) to cross the English Channel (New York Harbor) by boat to France (Governors Island), the wristbanded audience will board the boat with him to Agincourt, which savvy New Yorkers might recognize as Fort Jay. Free. Part of the River to River Festival. At 7 p.m., July 5, 6, 8-10, 12,13, 15, 18-21, and 24. Go to the River to River Festival website. 212-945-0505.