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“Romeo and Juliet” full of both romance and action

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – One of the greatest love stories of all time will soon be back on stage in Delaware Park. This season marks Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s 40th anniversary, and the company is bringing back a classic production to celebrate.

The stage is set for the premiere of Romeo and Juliet on Thursday evening.

“We’re still one of the largest free outdoor Shakespeare festivals in the country,” Managing Director Lisa Ludwig told News 4. “We get about 40,000 people every summer. To look out on that hill and see thousands of people when the sun is going down, there’s nothing like it in theater.”

Romeo and Juliet has many romantic moments, but audiences are also in store for an action-packed theater experience. The actors spent a bulk of their rehearsal time on stage the play’s combat scenes.

“For every minute of this, you want an hour of rehearsal time,” explained Jonas Barranca, who plays Romeo.

The show runs through July 12th. Performances are free and begin at 7:30pm. There are no shows on Mondays.

How to Make the Most of an Evening at Shakespeare in Delaware Park

By Marisa Caruso Culture & Arts, Theater, Things to do June 15, 2015

Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Buffalo NY, Step Out Buffalo

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Photo by Christopher Scinta

Open air concerts, patio seating, group bike rides… in case you haven’t noticed, it’s summer in Buffalo, and with the deluge of outdoor events that begin to fill up your weekend schedule comes the annual tradition of outdoor theater in the form of Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Celebrating 40 years of iambic pentameter in the park this summer, SDP is presenting the classic love story of Romeo and Juliet and the hilarious cross-dressing comedy Twelfth Night to its Buffalo audiences. Thousands of people from Buffalo and beyond enjoy free Shakespeare every year, but for those who haven’t joined in the fun up ‘til now, here are some tips about how to make the most of your trip to the park!

Firstly, the Bard. The Swan of Avon. Billy Shakes. You can say the guy’s name, but Shakespeare and his words might seem daunting if all you know are the plays you read and didn’t understand in high school. But that’s high school, and reading a play in a classroom is completely different from a live performance. Take sword fighting, for instance. When the Capulets and Montagues meet in the streets of Verona in the first scene of Romeo and Juliet, all you read is a bunch of “I bite my thumb at you”’s, followed by the italicized stage direction They fight. When you watch that scene played out, it’s tense stare-downs, chest-thumping threats and then- the swords come out! How often do you get to see people fight with swords? Never, I think is the answer, and still only very rarely if you’re a samurai. SO, tip #1, read the synopsis of the play, get the main characters names in your brain and maybe even look at the most famous quotes of the play (there are a ton in every single play), and then sit back and enjoy the show! You don’t have to understand every word, it will all make total sense when a professional actor as opposed to your 10th grade English teacher is reciting the work.
Next: BYOS- Bring your own seating! Unlike a regular theater performance, park shows do not provide seats, only a lovely hill on which to perch. If you aren’t fond of dewy shorts and the probability of bugs crawling about your person, bring that old blanket you use for picnics, or that beach chair you use for watching your landlord mow the lawn. Anything you use will help you keep comfortable and enjoying the show, rather than brushing ants off your knees, and it will also help you claim your hill spot if you have to leave it for a bathroom break.

 

Then, while sitting on your picnic blanket and thinking about how wonderful that wine was that spilled and left that red stain in the corner last summer, bring out the libations for a complete poetic evening. Picnicking and enjoying the beverage of your choice is highly encouraged at this event, and yes that means open container laws bend for the Bard. Snacks, beer, even complete meals are enjoyed on the hill every year to the tune of “If music be the food of love, play on!”

Next, remember that while the sun is shining during the day and baking us to a perfect 80 degrees, this is still Buffalo and the temperature can drop 30 degrees within 30 minutes of sundown. Keep sweatshirts, sweatpants, extra blankets or scarves on hand for when the sun dips below the horizon right around intermission. It’s not unlikely to sweat for the prologue and goosepimple for the epilogue. And you may as well add to your preparation for the elements sunscreen and bugspray. Think of your visit to Shakespeare in Delaware Park as a short camping trip with extra swashbuckling and couplets.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park, Buffalo NY, Step Out Buffalo

 

Now both shows run Tuesday through Sunday for four weeks each, so there are plenty of opportunities for you to make a memorable night (or several memorable nights) of this fabulous event. Try going on a busy Friday night when as many as 800 people pile together for a good view and park passersby wander in and out; or check out a quieter Wednesday evening to relax and break up the week. It’s a cheap and unique date (especially Romeo and Juliet), a family friendly show, and it might just end up being the highlight of your season! So perhaps most importantly, bring friends to share the experience with. And second most importantly, bring a little cash to donate to the company (they’ll visit your picnic blanket at intermission, don’t you worry) so that Shakespeare in Delaware Park can continue providing quality classic theatre for another 40 years!

For more information on Shakespeare in Delaware Park, visit shakespeareindelawarepark.org or follow Shakespeare in Delaware Park on Instagram and Facebook.

 

Essential Information:

Performances run Tuesday-Sunday, curtain at 7:30pm every night, no matinees

Romeo and Juliet

Dates: 6/18/15 – 7/12/15

Directed by Tom Loughlin

Starring Jonas Barranca and Kathleen Denecke

Free Admission

 

Twelfth Night

Dates: 7/23/15 – 8/16/15

Directed by Steve Vaughan

Starring Tim Newell, Jordan Louis Fischer, Norman Sham and Greg Gjurich

Free Admission

Shakespeare in Delaware Park remains a Buffalo favorite in its 40th season

Shakespeare in Delaware Park remains a Buffalo favorite in its 40th season

 

on Sunday, June 14, 2015 12:01 AM, updated: June 14, 2015 at 10:35 am

Act I, Scene I of “Shakespeare in Delaware Park.”

Scene: The Anchor Bar on Main Street, 1976.

Enter SAUL ELKIN, a young University at Buffalo theater professor and JOSEPH PAPP, legendary founder of New York City’s Public Theater and Elkin’s Ph.D. thesis adviser, along with certain commoners, eating chicken wings.

Papp: “So, who’s doing Shakespeare?”

Elkin: “I don’t know, the colleges are doing it.”

Papp: “Start something!”

Elkin: “OK.”

Exeunt.

OK, so this decidedly drama-free exchange of very un-Shakespearean language across a barroom table in 1976 may not exactly be the stuff of great theater. But it was enough to launch one of Buffalo’s most popular and enduring cultural institutions and one of the most popular free Shakespeare Festivals in North America, which opened that very summer with a student-driven production of “The Winter’s Tale.”

And on Thursday, when Saul Elkin steps onto an outdoor stage near Hoyt Lake to usher in the 40th season of his company with the opening lines of “Romeo and Juliet,” chances are that meeting with his trusted adviser four decades earlier will be on his mind.

After his conversation with Papp, who was in town to see a production of the play he had urged Elkin to produce (Myrna Lamb’s “Apple Pie”), the idea of a Shakespeare festival didn’t take long to germinate.

“Within a couple of weeks, I had called the then-Mayor Stanley Makowski and we had a meeting. And he said, ‘Sure, sure. Can’t give you any money, but we’ll help you.’ ”

From that point on, Shakespeare in Delaware Park has been inextricably linked to the region’s public life and its identity as a haven for summer culture. The company has faced numerous crises, notably in the early ’90s when budget cuts threatened to put the company out of business and forced it to leave the University at Buffalo and reorganize itself as an independent nonprofit.

After that, the City of Buffalo and Erie County started to provide a trickle of public subsidies and finally a semi-reliable stream, which ebbed and flowed throughout the years as the economy vacillated and the whims of legislators shifted away from the arts and back again.

Two constants were the Bard’s words pouring out over Delaware Park and the faithful audience, which grew every year as the festival shed its origins as a classroom project and became an intergenerational tradition.

Elkin said he never expected his efforts to produce a Western New York cultural institution.

“I think what moved me was the number of people who came to the park,” Elkin said. “And I thought, this is a classroom exercise. I can’t and won’t charge admission. And then I realized, I can never charge admission. That’s not what this is about.”

What it was about was a vast, untapped and under-recognized appetite from across the entire region for Shakespearean drama in an outdoor setting. To Elkin’s surprise and that of his early collaborators, that appetite spanned neighborhoods and socioeconomic lines, drawing picnic-toting fans from the toniest suburbs to the toughest city blocks.

“It wasn’t just that people were showing up because it was free,” Elkin said. “They were showing up because it was a particular kind of event. Maybe it was because other similar events were unaffordable. Maybe tickets for a family at Shea’s were unaffordable, but it was more than that too. It was about sharing these wonderful plays. And then I think what people discovered was that the plays weren’t as off-putting as they thought they were.”

For Lisa Ludwig, the company’s managing director and a frequent performer on the SDP stage, the appeal of the outdoor setting is a huge part of its lasting appeal.

“When the sun is setting and the stage lights are just starting to glow, and you see everybody lighting their candles … As a performer, and in the audience, there’s nothing like it,” she said. “That’s a really amazing moment. Magical is the word.”

The company’s approach to Shakespeare’s plays throughout the years has balanced an abiding respect for the original material with a desire to extend the playwright’s ideas into a new century and toward new conceptual ends.

Switching up gender roles

This season, which features “Romeo and Juliet” and an all-male version of “Twelfth Night,” is an example of that approach. Both productions take a contemporary approach to gender fluidity – a topic on everyone’s mind since Caitlyn Jenner’s announcement – the first by featuring female actors in male roles and the second by harkening back to the Elizabethan practice of producing plays with entirely male casts.

In “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Tom Loughlin and starring Jonas Barranca and Kathleen Denecke, women play crucial roles: Romeo’s cousin Benvolio (Marie Costa), Juliet’s cousin Tybalt (Mary Beth Lacki), as well as Prince Escalus (Marisa Caruso) and the Capulet servant Gregory (Shelby Ebeling).

“Twelfth Night,” which Steve Vaughan will direct, was inspired by recent all-male productions of Shakespeare plays.

“It’s really about discovering what qualities a character has that emerge when they are a young man playing a young woman,” he said. “… It’s really about gender and what it brings to the story.”

In the case of “Romeo and Juliet,” what it brings to the story is a kind of reconfigured machismo embodied by actors like Lacki, who is not soft-pedaling any of Tybalt’s violent tendencies and has embraced the swordplay involved in the role.

“You really see an extreme sense of joy and life and you see love and sexual tension. But then with Tybalt you see the darker side of this human character,” Lacki said.

This will be the fifth production of “Romeo and Juliet” in the company’s history, and chances are there will be plenty of return customers on the hill this time around.

And Elkin, who is reprising his role as Friar Laurence, will be there to greet them as he once again steps in front of the chattering crowd, breathes in the twilight and sets up a tale of star-crossed lovers on the stage he built.

“There’s a lot of people who have a sentimental attachment to this festival. They come with their children, they come when they grow up,” Elkin said. “It’s very moving to me. I hadn’t anticipated it, but I relish it now.”

email: cdabkowski@buffnews.com

SDP’s 40th Anniversary Season begins June 18!

SHAKESPEARE IN DELAWARE PARK ANNOUNCES

40th ANNIVERSARY SEASON OF FREE THEATRE

BEGINS NEXT THURSDAY JUNE 18th

 

May, 2015 Buffalo, NY … Shakespeare in Delaware Park is pleased to announce its 40th anniversary season of free professional outdoor theater will begin NEXT Thursday.  This summer’s amazing season will begin June 18th when audience favorite ROMEO AND JULIET hits the stage.  Founder and artistic director Saul Elkin plays Friar Lawrence along with new faces Kathleen Denecke and Jonas Barranca playing the star crossed lovers. Director Tom Loughlin has also cast many SDP veterans including Peter Palmisano, Lisa Ludwig, Gerry Maher and Eileen Dugan.  The beloved TWELFTH NIGHT, will be the second offering of the summer featuring a star studded all male cast.

Shakespeare in Delaware Park reaches over 40,000 audience members each season and is excited to be celebrating 40 incredible years of high-quality professional theatre.  SDP is proud to remain as one of the largest FREE outdoor Shakespeare festivals in the county.  ROMEO AND JULIET runs June 18th – July 12th with TWELFTH NIGHT 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.org or by calling (716) 856-4533. Or like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/shakespeareindelawarepark. See you on the hill.

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R&J Poster

R&J Fight Combat Sneak Peek

A sneak peek of characters Tybalt (played by Mary Beth Lacki) & Romeo (played by Jonas Barranca) fighting in our upcoming production of Romeo & Juliet, opening June 18!

Posted by Shakespeare in Delaware Park on Monday, June 8, 2015

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