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Cast and crew members of Shakespeare in Delaware Park celebrated the writer’s 450th birthday Wednesday. The group read excerpts of the William Shakespeare’s sonnets, monologues and plays all day in honor of his legacy.
Managing Director of Shakespeare in Delaware Park Lisa Ludwig says their mission is to keep Shakespeare’s works alive for years to come.
“People are really daunted by reading Shakespeare, but the thing about Shakespeare is, it’s meant to be seen and heard. I think that’s my passion about Shakespeare in Delaware Park is people of all demographics can come and see it for free. It’s sometimes their first experience to go, ‘Oh now I get it’. I think there’s something for everyone in each one and I think it’s important for everyone to see Shakespeare and not be daunted by reading the text,” said Ludwig.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park founder Saul Elkin says in order for people capture the essence of Shakespeare’s work, they have to see it performed.
“The plays have survived for 450 years. They speak to us every bit as clearly as they spoke to his audience all those years ago,” Elkin said. “The evidence is that when you go to the park and see the plays we perform there, frequently there and children and young people, people who have had no experience with Shakespeare, who understand fully what is going on.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, along with other local lawmakers and leaders, stopped by the celebration to read a passage written by Shakespeare. Poloncarz says the themes in Shakespeare’s works are still relevant today.
“Maybe we’re not dealing with kings and queens, but we do deal with love, loss, and we deal with power grabs by politicians and alike. So, the things that happened in Shakespeare times aren’t really different from where we are today. We may be a lot more technologically advanced, but we still have the same issues. I think it’s important for young people to see that and to learn from it, that what you can read from Shakespeare you can learn a lot about human nature and what’s right and what’s wrong,” said Poloncarz.
Poloncarz says it’s crucial to continue to support Shakespeare in Delaware Park. He says he believes the free theatrical productions are one of the county’s greatest assets.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park reaches over 40,000 people each season. The line-up for its 39th season of free shows was also announced during the event. Henry V will begin running on June 19- July 13 and The Comedy of Errors will be on stage starting on July 23-August 16.
SHAKESPEARE IN DELAWARE PARK ANNOUNCES
450th Birthday Celebration for WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Wednesday April 23rd from 8am to 8pm
617 Main Street, Buffalo NY 14203
April 14, 2014, Buffalo, NY … Shakespeare in Delaware Park invites you to help celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday on Wednesday April 23rd. Join us as we honor the man who is widely considered the greatest writer of all time with a day full of Shakespearean readings by local actors and fans of the Bard. From 8am to 8pm on April 23 guests can stop by 617 Main Street (Market Arcade Building) and be treated to readings of Sonnets and Monologues made famous by the man himself while indulging in birthday sweets. What a perfect way to celebrate the importance of William Shakespeare while helping SDP gear up for their 39thseason of Free Shakespeare.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park reaches over 40,000 audience members each season and is proud to be celebrating 39 incredible years of high-quality professional theatre, which remains FREE for the public to enjoy. HENRY V runs June 19th – July 13th with COMEDY OF ERRORS on stage July 23rd –August 16th. Performances are held every evening (except Mondays) at 7:30 p.m. Shows take place on Shakespeare Hill in Delaware Park, next to Hoyt Lake behind the Rose Garden, off Lincoln Parkway near the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Further information may be obtained at www.shakespeareindelawarepark.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park Announces Shakespearience Interviews
Interviews for SHAKESPEARIENCE, (
Saturday, April 26th from 10am to 1pm
716 Main Street Buffalo New York 14203
Session I : HENRY V will run from: June 17 to July 13
Session II : COMEDY OF ERRORS will run from: July 22 to August 17
This season’s productions are:
HENRY V directed by Saul Elkin- June 19– July 13
COMEDY OF ERRORS -directed by Steve Vaughan- July 24 – August 17
SHAKESPEARIENCE is open to area high school students; this program is designed to provide in-depth theatrical experience with theatre professionals. Each session runs for five weeks, beginning the week prior to regularly scheduled performances. Applicants will be required to participate in an enrollment interview and prepare a short Shakespeare Monologue/ Sonnet on Saturday April 26th between 10am-1 pm. In addition to attending theatre classes, students will gain hands-on experience in a professional production as part of SDP technical crew and will perform on stage during the season productions and in a special student performance during the season.
Tuition is $400 per five-week session. Scholarships are available.
APPLICANTS MUST CALL FOR AN INTERVIEW APPOINTMENT AND PREPARE A SHORT SHAKESPEARE MONOLOGUE OR SONNET. NO INTERVIEWS WILL BE CONDUCTED ON A WALK IN BASIS.
For an appointment or further information call 856-4533.
There is a hill nestled in the northwest corner of Delaware Park, near Hoyt Lake, that attracts a crowd on nearly any given summer evening from June to August. This mass of people isn’t loud; it hasn’t gathered to protest or to show its pride – at least, not here. Instead, it has flocked to one central location – a wooden stage.
On what is dubbed Shakespeare Hill, people bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets full of food and wine. They each stake their claim on a patch of grass for the evening as the sun lowers in the sky. Once the main event begins, dusk will creep upon them, and as the sun sets, the lights of the outdoor theater will take over, almost imperceptible in the midst of the spell William Shakespeare’s words create.
At this meeting place, nature and culture become one, along with what Steve Vaughan calls “the ambiance of a Buffalo summer” – kids, dogs, helicopters overhead and ambulances screaming down Elmwood Avenue or the Scajaquada Expressway. As the suspense, comedy and climax weave an intricate web in the mind of the audience, though, the rest of the noises fade into the background, leaving room for the unique experience of Shakespeare in Delaware Park (SDP).
“It’s a beautiful thing, watching the sun go down and seeing the stage lights take over,” said Vaughan, an actor, fight director and director of “The Comedy of Errors” for this year. “I love working there … it’s part of the fabric of Buffalo tradition.”
Although the productions only last through the summer, the organization works year-round. At this point, according to managing director Lisa Ludwig, it has gotten production teams in place, held auditions, and cast the shows. The Fall Fundraiser, a staged reading to raise money for the organization, has come and gone, and everyone is gearing up for the 20th annual Fabulous Feast April 5, which is an auction and five-course Elizabethan meal complete with costumes, mead and grog, as well as entertainment.
The money raised from these and other events, as well as “passing the hat” (collecting donations during intermissions), goes toward the organization’s production costs.
“Every year, we budget what we hope to make while passing the hat, based on previous years, the economic situation at the time, government funding, et cetera,” Ludwig said. “We do a speech at intermission every night to explain the passing of the hat. If we’re having a tough season due to weather… we adjust the speech to reflect that.”
There are also memberships Shakespeare lovers can purchase, which start at $50 and include perks that increase with each price tier. These are an important part of the equation, according to Ludwig.
The budget is a huge factor, and that really affects the decision-making I have to do during the design phase.”
— Ronald Schwartz, scenery and properties designer
“It’s not that they have dropped off – we are just always looking for more people to be a part of the SDP family, and membership is the perfect way to be part of such an important cultural jewel in Western New York,” she said.
Due to the arbitrary nature of fundraising, SDP has to operate on a somewhat tight budget. It has had a partnership with Shea’s Performing Arts Center for the past four years to use rehearsal space with them until the week before opening, which is when rehearsals move outdoors. Scenery and properties designer Ronald Schwartz, also SUNY Buffalo State’s technical designer for the theater department, said he considers recycling and reusing stock elements as well.
“The budget is a huge factor, and that really affects the decision-making I have to do during the design phase,” he said, adding that he also has contacts and local resources to help him flesh out the rest of his designs before they get approved by the director and fellow designers.
The fact that the organization has done this for 39 years speaks volumes about the effort everyone has put in, not to mention the loyalty it has built up.
“We just do our job by putting up professional-quality productions and let our audience know that we are able to do this because of their support when we pass the hat,” Ludwig said.
This coming summer, in fact, is the one that marks SDP’s 39th anniversary. Anthony Chase, the assistant dean of arts and humanities at Buffalo State and founding theater editor of Artvoice, has written about the organization for 24 years. As a result, he has watched it grow from a component of the University at Buffalo’s dance and theater programs into one of the largest and most attended free outdoor Shakespeare events in the nation.
“It’s a rather remarkable opportunity,” Chase said. “By the time someone is out of high school, they could have seen 12 Shakespeare plays. It’s very unusual, and a tremendous cultural asset which brings people together.”
That is, if one takes advantage of the festival while they can – and there is plenty of incentive to do so. Shakespeare Hill lies within a five-minute walk from Rockwell Hall – practically in Buffalo State’s front yard – which means students attending during summer can find entertainment easily. It is basically free – actors pass the hat, collecting donations from willing audience members, but there is no minimum donation amount.
“You can put in one dollar and feel totally comfortable with doing that,” Chase said.
There is also a sort of dramatic utilitarianism to Shakespeare – it is highbrow entertainment (Queen Elizabeth herself watched his plays), and at the same time can amuse the masses, as the playwright needed to entertain the full spectrum of society.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” from 2012
Last, as Chase explained, Shakespeare and his contemporaries transformed the English language into poetry.
“(They) took a language that was not elegant — there was no great poetry written in English because it is a clumsy language,” he said. “Shakespeare, Marlowe, Jonson – they took a clumsy language with most of its words borrowed from other languages and made something spectacular.
Shakespeare is always clever. The (imagery), the clever puns, the dirty jokes – he is always clever, always entertaining.”
SDP is preparing “Henry V” and “The Comedy of Errors” for the stage this coming season, as picked by founder and artistic director Saul Elkin. Usually one production follows traditional interpretation (in this case, “Henry V”); the other, often a comedy, goes in another direction entirely.
Ann Emo, an associate theater professor at Buffalo State and costume designer for SDP, won an Artie Award from Artvoice for her work on the costumes for “The Tempest” in 2009-2010.
“(It) was set on a ‘tropical island’ of sorts off of Brazil,” she said. “We made the place up – it is not real… I did a lot of painting and natural objects in the costumes. That was fun and fantastical.”
For his part, Chase remembers an interpretation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with a Hollywood fantasy theme.
“There were Busby Berkeley chorus girls,” he recalled. “There was also a Fred and Ginger-type of exchange between Oberon and Titania. It was very inventive.”
Vaughan’s take on “The Comedy of Errors” will involve the popular scifi elements of steampunk and dieselpunk, the former of which is neo-Victorian, while the latter involves aesthetics from the era between the first two World Wars. The music will all be live, with musicians playing from the stage as actors, which he admitted might be a limitation depending on skill set – but he added that he and composer Randy Andropolis will work with whatever they have.
“The concept theme we’re thinking of is around the Industrial Revolution,” he said. “We’re probably making up our own style here.”
Vaughan, who is also a theater lecturer at Buffalo State, chose not to do the play in a traditional manner because “the tights and ruffles didn’t add anything.
“This play is about people – about how, when people become emotional, they stop thinking,” he said.
Whether in ruffs and tights or barefoot, the actors and crew have given the audience thrills for close to four decades, with “one of the most beautiful parks in America,” in Chase’s words, as their backdrop.
“It’s very social,” he said. “It’s in a beautiful park setting… everyone gets to commune with each other and with nature.
“There’s an element to all theater experiences in that they bring people together. They laugh together, become frightened together, feel suspense together. It’s a communal, life-affirming experience.”