Public Theater's 2019 Shakespeare in the Park Season Will Include MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, CORIOLANUS and HERCULES!
The Public Theater (Artistic Director, Oskar Eustis; Executive Director, Patrick Willingham) announced the line-up today for the 2019 Free Shakespeare in the Park season, which as BroadwayWorld reported this morning, will feature a stage adaptation of Hercules.
The season continues a 57-year tradition of free theater in Central Park. Since 1962, over five million people have enjoyed more than 150 free productions of Shakespeare and other classical works and musicals at the Delacorte Theater. Conceived by founder Joseph Papp as a way to make great theater accessible to all, The Public's Free Shakespeare in the Park continues to be the bedrock of the Company's mission to increase access and engage the community.
This summer, Free Shakespeare in the Park will feature the romantic comedy MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (May 21-June 23), directed by Tony Award winner Kenny Leon; and for the first time in 40 years, the war-torn tragedy CORIOLANUS, directed by Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan (July 16-August 11). The Delacorte summer season will conclude with the seventh year of the acclaimed Public Works initiative with free performances of the Public Works' musical adaptation of HERCULES (August 31-September 8), with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Kristoffer Diaz, and directed by Lear deBessonet. Based on the Disney film written by Ron Clements, John Musker, Donald McEnery, Bob Shaw, and Irene Mecchi and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, HERCULES will feature choreography by Chase Brock, as well as additional new music by Menken and Zippel for this Public Works production.
"We are delighted to welcome Kenny Leon for his Shakespeare in the Park debut, and Dan Sullivan to the theater he has done so much to define in the past decade. Kenny and Dan are two of our field's giants, and we are proud they call The Public home," said Artistic Director Oskar Eustis. "Much Ado is one of Shakespeare's greatest comedies, and Kenny's vision promises to make it as fresh and revelatory as a new play. Coriolanus, likeJulius Caesar, reflects Shakespeare's profound nervousness about demagoguery and democracy. Rarely performed in the Park, Coriolanus promises to be a strong reflection of our own age's struggle and resistance."
"We are thrilled to welcome Lear deBessonet back at the helm of our Public Works initiative for the first time since 2015," Eustis continued. "Alan Menken is one of the great musical geniuses of our time; it is an honor to welcome him, David Zippel, and Kristoffer Diaz to the Delacorte. Our Public Works community promises to connect this brilliantly conceived story back to the earth from which it sprang: the people. What a grand and unlikely experience this will be!"
"Many generations of our Public Works families have embraced Disney musicals as a shared American canon," said Public Works Founder and Hercules Director Lear deBessonet. "Hercules' roots in Greek mythology, infused with soulful gospel music, make it a natural extension of Public Works' radical exploration of humanity through Shakespeare and the classics. We're excited to see how this Public Works production will uncover the deeper meaning of what it means to be a hero and how true strength is derived, not from the greatness of one person, but the transformative power of community."
Tony Award winner Kenny Leon directs a bold new take on Shakespeare's cherished comedy of romantic retribution and miscommunication, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING. In this modern production, we find the community of Messina celebrating a break from an ongoing war. But not all is peaceful amid the revelry, as old rivals engage in a battle of wits, unexpected foes plot revenge, and young lovers are caught in a tumultuous courtship - until love proves the ultimate trickster, and undoes them all.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING was first staged at the Delacorte in 1972 and was directed by A. J. Antoon, featuring Sam Waterston as Benedick and Kathleen Widdoes as Beatrice. It was also performed at the Delacorte in 1988, directed by Gerald Freedman, and featuring Kevin Kline as Benedick, Blythe Danner as Beatrice, David Hyde Pierce as Don Juan, and Jerry Stiller as Dogberry. It was staged at the Delacorte in 2004, directed by David Esbjornson, featuring Jimmy Smits as Benedick, Kristen Johnston as Beatrice, Sam Waterston as Leonato, Elisabeth Waterston as Hero, and Jayne Houdyshell as Ursula. In 2013, the comedy was presented as part of The Public's Mobile Unit, bringing Shakespeare to audiences in the five boroughs who have limited or no access to the arts. The beloved comedy was last seen at the Delacorte in 2014, with a production directed by Jack O'Brien and featuring Lily Rabe as Beatrice, Hamish Linklater as Benedick, and Brian Stokes Mitchell as Don Pedro.
Then, for the first time since 1979, Free Shakespeare in the Park presents CORIOLANUS, the Bard's blistering drama about a general voted into power by a populace hungry for change, and the unraveling that follows. Tony Award winner Daniel Sullivan directs a modern-day version of this riveting epic of democracy and demagoguery. Sullivan last staged Troilus and Cressida at the Delacorte Theater in 2016 and his other Park credits include Cymbeline, King Lear, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, All's Well That Ends Well, The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
CORIOLANUS has only been staged twice at the Delacorte, first in 1965 with a production directed by Gladys Vaughan and featuring Robert Burr as Caius Marcius Coriolanus, James Earl Jones as Junius Brutus, Staats Cotsworth as Menenius Agrippa, and Marcie Hubert as Valeria. It last appeared at the Delacorte in 1979, directed by Wilford Leach and featuring Morgan Freeman as Caius Marcius Coriolanus, Gloria Foster as Volumnia, Maurice Woods as Menenius Agrippa, and Denzel Washington as Aediles.
The Public Theater's initiative that invites communities across New York to create ambitious works of participatory theater is closing out the summer in truly epic fashion. Public Works will present the glorious story of HERCULES, brought to vibrant life by professional actors and community groups from across the city. Directed by Public Works Founder and Resident Director Lear deBessonet, this summer's production, based on the Disney animated film, will feature the film's beloved score, plus additional original songs by the film's composer Alan Menken and lyricist David Zippel, with a new book by Kristoffer Diaz and choreography by Chase Brock. Journey with Hercules in this new stage adaptation that invites New Yorkers from all five boroughs to participate in a joyous musical that celebrates the heroes found in all of us.
HERCULES features scenic design by Dane Laffrey; costume design by Andrea Hood; lighting design by Tyler Micoleau; sound design by Kai Harada and Jessica Paz; wigs, hair, and makeup design by Cookie Jordan; and music supervision and arrangements by Michael Kosarin. HERCULES is presented by special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher.
PUBLIC WORKS is a national and international initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. Led by Founder Lear deBessonet and Director of Public Works Laurie Woolery, Public Works deliberately blurs the line between professional artists and community members, creating theater that is not only for the people, but by and of the people as well.
The Public Works community partner organizations are Brownsville Recreation Center(Brooklyn), Center for Family Life in Sunset Park (Brooklyn), DreamYard (Bronx), The Fortune Society (Queens), and Military Resilience Foundation (all boroughs), along with alumni partners Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education (Bronx), Children's Aid (all boroughs), and Domestic Workers United (all boroughs).
This year, Public Works is welcoming seven new Public Works National Affiliates, including Long Wharf Theatre (New Haven, CT), Pittsburgh Public Theater (Pittsburgh, PA), Theatre Under The Stars (Houston, TX), Trinity Repertory Company (Providence, RI), Tulsa Performing Arts Center and Trust (Tulsa, OK), Virginia Stage Company (Norfolk, VA), and Williamstown Theatre Festival (Williamstown, MA). These National Affiliates will be joining the Founding Public Works National and International Partners-Dallas Theater Center (Dallas, TX), the National Theatre's Public Acts programme (London and nationally, England), and Seattle Repertory Theatre (Seattle, WA). This network of theaters will be gathering to share practices and help build momentum around community-based theater nationwide. Collectively, they are seeking to put theater at the heart of every community, and community at the heart of every theater.
The three Founding Public Works National Partners are now all in production. This summer, all three founding partners will be presenting productions of As You Like It, adapted by Shaina Taub and Laurie Woolery, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub. These three productions will appear in Dallas, at the Queen's Theatre Hornchurch in London, and Seattle in the months of August and September 2019.
This season, The Public proudly welcomes the return of The Jerome L. Greene Foundation and Bank of America as season sponsors. The generous support of The Jerome L. Greene Foundation and Bank of America helps to sustain The Public's mission of inclusion, creating great theater, boldly conceived, and free for all.
"We are thrilled to partner once again with The Public Theater on Free Shakespeare in the Park," said Christina McInerney, President and CEO of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation. "All people should have the opportunity to see Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater, one of New York's most unique treasures. We are truly proud to support Oskar Eustis in his quest to bring the highest quality productions of Shakespeare to all the people of New York."
"Bank of America is pleased to return for the 13th season as sponsor of Shakespeare in the Park, a summer tradition bringing New Yorkers and visitors together for a night of culture under the stars," said Rena De Sisto, Global Arts & Culture Executive for Bank of America. "We believe in the power of the arts to help economies thrive, educate and enrich societies, and create greater cultural understanding. That's why we partner with organizations like The Public Theater and why we're proud our support allows audiences to experience the arts, for free."
The Public Theater's Annual Gala will be celebrated on Monday, June 3 at the Delacorte Theater. To receive an invitation to The Public Theater's Gala, please call (212) 539-8634 or visit www.publictheater.org.
Photo Credit: Steve Brown