One evening in Central Park last year my wife Genie and I joined a happy crowd of about three hundred people, including many delighted children, sitting or standing or lying on lawns and rock outcrop-pings or propped against tree trunks. We were watching an outstanding performance of Shakespeare's Cymbeline that we had stumbled on. Then -- just the other day -- I was watching the "open" (to the public) rehersals for Much Ado About Nothing.
The actors had to vocally project their lines to be heard by the widely scattered throng, but they managed to give subtle performances nonetheless, reflecting the depth of talent available in New York and the skill of Stephen Burdman, the New York Classical Theatre's director and his remarkable talent for staging outdoor productions.
During both the preformance my wife and I attended and also at the recent rehersal, for the last half-hour of the play, fireflies twinkled and flitted in the twilight. Children were chasing them on the edges of the crowd. Woody Allen in his most romantic Manhattan-is-Heaven mood could not have portrayed the park as more iconic.
As the the New York Classical Theatre's website notes: thie mission is to reinvigorate and create audiences for the theatre by presenting free productions of popular classics and forgotten masterpieces in non-traditional public spaces throughout New York City. Now you too have a chance to enjoy one of New York's best kept secrets and it is FREE!
Right now -- Thursdays through Sundays, August 5 - 29 at 7:00 pm see Much Ado About Nothing -- you may enjoy this gem of a theatre experience by going to West 103rd Street and Central Park West. (Enter the park at West 103rd Street and Central Park West. Take B or C train to 103rd Street or take the M10 bus.)
Just look into the park from the street and you'll spot the actors and happy audience. Do yourself a favor and walk about 100 yards into the park, sit and enjoy this brilliant (and funny) production .
This is the way Shakespeare wrote his plays to be seen. This theatre experience will bring you about as close to the old Globe Theatre in Elizabethan London as you'll ever get. The public mills around, laughs, comments and is part of the production, not wedged in hundred dollar seats! Go, and enjoy!
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Portofino: A Novel (Calvin Becker Trilogy)
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