Harlem Summer Shakespeare Celebrates 10th Season with ROMEO AND JULIET, Beginning Tonight
The critically acclaimed HARLEM SUMMER SHAKESPEARE will present its 10th season of FREE SHAKESPEARE in Riverbank State Park with ROMEO AND JULIET beginning tonight, July 23rd and continuing through August 17th, 2014, with the official opening on July 24th at 8 pm. The company will again perform in the Riverside Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park, Riverside Drive at 145th Street, overlooking the Hudson River. Performances are Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 PM.
Riverbank State Park has been so pleased with the Harlem Summer Shakespeare productions, in 2009 they became a co-producer. "We love being a part of bringing these wonderful productions to our community in Harlem" said Ruth Thomas, head of the Cultural Department of Riverbank State Park. "People ask us all year what we are going to present this summer."
Artistic Director Alexa Kelly said: "Continuing our tradition of making Shakespeare a part of today's world, our production of R&J will be visually contemporary, whilst keeping Shakespeare's language intact. The goal of Harlem Summer Shakespeare is to bring Shakespeare to new audiences. In the tradition of the great Joe Papp, we bring live, multi-ethnic theatre, FREE, to families and young people who might not gravitate to or even imagine they would enjoy live theatre-especially not Shakespeare. We use familiar, contemporary visuals, motifs and sounds, to bring the audience closer to the story being told on stage. ROMEO AND JULIET will be presented like a crime story in the style of TV's Law and Order. As an extra source of contemporary excitement for young people, the clan action will also include some STEPPING (as in Fraternity competition face-offs).
Our production underlines that gang-warfare, people fighting with people exactly like them - without reason or logic - is a universal cause of grief.
In Ruwanda the Hutu were killing the Tutsies despite having lived side by side for centuries. In the projects, gang members -- who have grown up side by side - fight over gang names. Whether it is the Crips and the Bloods, the Hatfields and the McCoys, or the Capulets and the Montagues, needless death and suffering has been caused by parents who have passed along the legacy of hatred to their children."
Founded in 1989, Pulse Ensemble Theatre is presenting the 10th season of Harlem Summer Shakespeare. Pulse, which is celebrating its 25th season, is dedicated to making the Classics accessible to young people, to being a training ground for actors, playwrights, and directors and to developing new audiences. Pulse is also committed to multi-cultural casting. Pulse runs a weekly Playwrights' Lab. dedicated to developing new American plays and has an active training program for Interns.
Over the past 10 years, HARLEM SUMMER SHAKESPEARE has presented popular and critically acclaimed productions of TWELFTH NIGHT, THE TEMPEST, the ever-popular A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (3 times! by special request from the Park), ROMEO AND JULIET, MACBETH, and AS YOU LIKE IT set in the NJ Mafia world. The New York Times said of the company's first production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM: "The audience - which did not resemble any audience I have seen at the Delacorte or any other mainstream Shakespeare venue-obviously loved it!" The 2007 production of THE TEMPEST, where Izod shirts replaced Elizabethan ruffs, continued the company's tradition of making Shakespeare immediate and accessible to audiences new to Shakespeare as well as to those familiar with the Bard. MACBETH was set in Afghanistan, and critically proclaimed "an extraordinarily innovative production". The Village Voice said of our MIDSUMMER... touring Harlem Shakespeare production that "even when the Mr. Softee truck came by, the children sat transfixed and did not leave--high praise indeed!"
ROMEO AND JULIET, directed by Alexa Kelly, will feature several actors returning to Harlem Summer Shakespeare after working in regional theatres around the country and in Europe. The production features Stella Heath as Juliet, (Orlando Shakespeare Festival, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Beijing Shakespeare Festival); Jordan Bellow as Romeo (South Coast Repertory Players); Thia Stephan as Lady Capulet (Brunswick Square Theatre, London, Boomerang Th. NYC, Puck/Harlem Summer Shakespeare); Marina Barry as Nurse (Asolo Theatre); Michael Gilpin as Friar (Bottom & Petruchioi/Harlem Summer Shakespeare); Brian Richardson as Lord Capulet (Metropolitan Playhouse, Barter Theatre, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Macbeth & Malvolio/Harlem Summer Shakespeare), Jonathan Hicks as Mercutio (Milwaukee Rep., Chicago Shakespeare, Colorado Shakespeare); Karim Sekou as Paris, (Classical Theatre of Harlem, Titania/Harlem Summer Shakespeare); Colleen McGloin as Benvolio, John L. Payne as Prince; James Ross as Balthasar; Ricardy Fabre as Gregory; Gregory Cioffi as Samson; Kim Rachelle Harris as Montague (Shenandoah Music Theatre, York Theatre, Mill Mountain Playhouse), and Israel Gutierrez as Tybalt (Virginia Shakespeare. Marvell Rep).
Alexa Kelly is the creator of, and has directed all ten of, Harlem Summer Shakespeare's critically acclaimed productions. She said "I am thrilled that HSS has such a large neighborhood following, and that it also attracts loyal audiences from all over Manhattan and the boroughs. Our productions are free, so young people and senior citizens (among others) can see the show again and again, and they do! Last year one senior citizen brought her teenage grandson to see the show every day, and said that she looked forward to it all year!"
Ms. Kelly, the co-founder (in 1989), and Artistic Director of Pulse Ensemble Theatre said "We love that we filled a void for FREE theatre in Harlem 10 years ago, when there was no free theatre in Harlem at all. We have spread the glory of live theatre and Shakespeare to thousands of people who might never have known what fun it could be. This is a very special anniversary year for Shakespeare, and we are proud that it is a very special tenth anniversary year for us!"
ROMEO & JULIET has costume design by David Anthony Crowley with lighting design by Steve O'Shea, scenic design by Bob Miller, fight choreography by Joseph Pisapia, and sound design by Brian Richardson.
For additional information, visit www.pulseensembletheatre.org or call (212) 695-1596.