Shakespeare, Summer and You – Perfect Together

Posted on by Laura Otten

Laura Aden Packer, Program Director, Arts


I just received a postcard announcing the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey‘s summer schedule, which features their production of The Tempest (see a recent article about the production in the Daily Record).

For me, summertime is inextricably linked to Shakespeare.

As a teenager, big trucks pulled up to my neighborhood playground one hot summer day and set up a stage in the middle of the basketball court. My friends and I learned that the New York Shakespeare Festival was touring a musical production of Two Gentlemen of Verona around to city parks and that for the next two nights, there would be a show right there, in our playground.

Well, what a show it turned out to be! Raul Julia and Clifton Davis were Proteus and Valentine, and that show spoke to me, and many of my friends, in a way we had never experienced before.

After that, we spent our summers at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, watching free Shakespeare in the park; throughout the rest of my school years and well into my professional life, I devoured Shakespeare plays and worked for theatres devoted to Shakespeare, including the exquisite, outdoor American Players Theatre, in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which is renowned as one of the country’s finest Shakespeare companies.


American Players Theatre (Spring Green, Wisconsin)

Although I no longer work for a Shakespeare-related organization, summer still means Shakespeare to me, and folks in New Jersey need look no further than the campuses of Drew University and the College of St. Elizabeth in Madison where the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, under Bonnie Monte’s inspired artistic leadership, presents brilliant productions of Shakespeare (and other classics), night after night, in the Kirby Theatre at Drew and under the stars (my favorite) at St. Elizabeth’s.


Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) at St. Elizabeth’s

You won’t want to miss their production this summer of The Tempest, which opens on June 24th and will be presented in the beautiful outdoor Greek amphitheatre on the St. E’s campus. Pack a picnic and treat your family to the show. You can buy tickets here or call (973) 408-5600.

We want to know: what are your favorite Shakespeare experiences? Do you have favorite memories of Shakespeare in the summer too?

One Response to Shakespeare, Summer and You – Perfect Together

  1. Marcia Clark says:

    Laura –
    I too spent many summer evenings at the Delacorte Theater when I lived in NYC.

    My absolute favorite summer Shakespeare to date, however, is The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival in Garrison, New York (the only professional Shakespeare company in the area).

    Now in their 23rd year under the leadership of Founding Artistic Director Terrence O’Brien, HVSF presents some of the most innovative, entertaining and dare I say, brilliant, Shakespeare I’ve seen. Located on the grounds of the historic Boscobel House & Gardens, the HVSF experience begins with the audience picnicking on the great lawn overlooking the Hudson River and Highlands. The plays are presented under a theater tent using the natural setting as set and backdrop. I don’t think my words can express the content of the work as well as the Festival’s so from their website:

    “The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival is dedicated to producing the plays of Shakespeare with an economy of style that focuses our energy and resources on script, actors, and audience.

    We communicate the stories with energy, clarity and invention and we distill rather than embellish the language and action. We challenge ourselves and our audiences to take a fresh look at what is essential in Shakespeare’s plays.”

    This season they are presenting Pericles, Much Ado About Nothing and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) in repertory (June 16-September 6).

    In the interest of full disclosure, I am the PR Consultant for the Festival, but as a former actress with a personal passion for Shakespeare, I was a fan of HVSF for many, many years before landing them as one of my most prized clients!

    I’d like to invite you to the Festival this summer to see for yourself. Just shoot me an email!

    How lucky are we that we have so much wonderful Shakespeare to choose from, from one side of the US to the other?!

    Marcia Clark

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