Rosalind Flees to the Folger of Arden

HVSF’s 2016 production of AS YOU LIKE IT directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch will experience something of a rebirth next month, when it moves to Washington DC’s masterful Folger Theatre.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with The Folger Theater at the Folger Shakespeare Library on this production,” said HVSF Managing Director Kate Liberman. “Like HVSF, they, too are deeply committed to producing plays that explore the essence of Shakespeare’s work for a wide and engaged audience. It is so exciting that a play that originated under our Theater Tent this past summer will be performed for new Shakespeare admirers in our nation’s capital.”

This isn’t the first time an HVSF production has migrated indoors. The Festival’s critically acclaimed, small-cast production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – directed by Eric Tucker – transferred to New York City’s The Pearl Theatre Company and was nominated for a Drama League award in 2015. And in 2017, the Festival will mount a production of LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST – directed by Ian Belknap and featuring the HVSF Conservatory Company – which will tour city schools in the fall with New York’s The Acting Company.

Still, AS YOU LIKE IT’s move to Washington is proving to be one for the record books: ten overflowing boxes of costumes and props will make their way to the Folger, as will 2016 Conservatory Company members Kimberly Chatterjee (Audrey) and Cody Wilson (Denis/William), 2015 Conservatory Company member Brian Reisman (Silvius), 2016 Acting Company member Antoinette Robinson (reprising her role of Celia), and much of the original creative team (Director Gaye Taylor Upchurch, Scenic Designer John McDermott, Costume Designer Charlotte Palmer-Lane, Lighting Designer Eric Southern, Sound Designer Leon Rothenberg, and Choreographer Alexandra Beller).

Much of the remaining cast has been assembled locally, as the Folger maintains a strong commitment to hiring DC talent. Among them are Tom Story taking on the role of Jacques, a “caustic and cynical sort… with a coat that a dusty Willie Nelson might wear” (The New York Times) originally played by HVSF’s Maria-Christina Oliveras. Musicianship certainly played a role in the design of both Ms. Oliveras’ Jacques and Mr. Story’s. “Maria-Christina’s costume was inspired by rock legend Patti Smith,” said HVSF’s Resident Costume Designer Charlotte Palmer-Lane, “so I took inspiration from another icon for Tom’s: Tom Waits.”

Rosalind, Orlando, and AS YOU LIKE IT’s cast of characters land at the Folger on January 24, 2017, running through March 5. If you make the trip, tickets run $35-$75 and the Theatre offers a number of pre- and post-show events to help you get reacquainted with the world of Arden.

“I’m honored that the ideas which energized our production will have another life at the Folger,” added HVSF Artistic Director Davis McCallum. “We’re grateful to Janet Alexander Griffin (the Folger’s Director of Public Programs and Artistic Producer) and the entire Folger Theatre team for making this HVSF-associated production a reality.”


Weirdo Women: Playwright Kate Hamill on PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

“Once you’re known for something, people ask you to keep doing it,” posed playwright Kate Hamill at the end of a long day of workshopping her new adaptation of William Thackeray’s VANITY FAIR at The Pearl Theatre Co. The workshop fell just after the close of an unprecedented run of Hamill’s SENSE & SENSIBILITY at Bedlam, and a few months before starting PRIDE AND PREJUDICE rehearsals for Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.

Adaptations are kind of Hamill’s thing lately. “I’m planning to do all of Austen’s books, and in the order in which they were written. It’ll be fascinating for me to see how our journeys align as young artists and young women.”

“I feel this immense responsibility and honor as a female artist to help
reclaim the classics for everyone. ”

– Kate Hamill

Why now? For Hamill – an actress as well as a playwright – the answer lies onstage. “I’ve been in the audition room with 400 other women all vying for the chance to play ‘Guy’s Girlfriend #1.’ The truth is there just aren’t enough truly great parts for women, by women, and the majority of plays and adaptations are by men. I feel this immense responsibility and honor as a female artist to help reclaim the classics for everyone.”

Digging into Austen’s work, which often explores women’s dependence on marriage in the pursuit of improved social and economic standing, has allowed Hamill to explore her own thoughts on contemporary pairing culture. “I guess PRIDE’s subtext should really be Thoughts on Marriage. There’s still all this pressure to pair off and get hitched. Rules to be followed. Do’s and dont’s to be honored. But how do you know when you’ve found the right person?”

Janeite, noun \ˈjā-ˌnīt\

A devotee and enthusiastic admirer of the works of Jane Austen.

She concedes that the conventional wisdom is, generally speaking, awful. “I’m not trying to give advice with this adaptation. For me, PRIDE is the question, not the answer.”

Compared with Austen’s first novel (SENSE & SENSIBILITY), PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is a simpler tale with less exposition, offering an ideal environment for exaggeration and creative casting decisions. Hamill, a self-proclaimed Janeite, has leveraged her absurd humor to reshape the world of the Bennets and Bingleys while respecting Austen’s original aims. “Mary Bennet’s someone I find particularly interesting because she’s super tragic. The sisters are all so mean to her throughout the story, so I’ve made her the worst. Totally insufferable. There’s something inherently funny about a black sheep and she’s become the blackest of the black sheep in my adaptation. Lizzy Bennet’s also a total weirdo and should be treated as such. She and Darcy are both odd ducks… odd ducks that swim together. ”

Exposition, noun \ĕk′spə-zĭsh′ən\

The part of a play that provides the background information needed
to understand the characters and the action.

Reactions from other Janeites have been surprising and humbling for Hamill. “I’m conscious of the very personal, committed relationships Austen fans have with these characters, and the very real disappointment they feel when their favorites have been desecrated. However, their input has been so lovely and gratifying – they can appreciate that plays and novels are different and require different things.” And while Hamill recognized the hunger in her own life for women’s stories told by women, she didn’t expect that other Austen fans would echo her sentiments so strongly: “They really need women’s voices onstage now more than ever.”

Hamill will join PRIDE Director Amanda Dehnert in January to workshop the play before rehearsals start in April. Dehnert, a household name at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, and Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, is no stranger to vibrant adaptations of tested classics. “I think we both prize theatricality, storytelling, and not being too precious about what goes onstage,” said Hamill. “When you’re workshopping or rehearsing with a director, everyone’s kicking the tires. Sometimes the stuff that’s feverishly written at 3:00AM that I thought would sound stupid can become the most important part of the play. This baby lives in the room, not on the page, and I’m really looking forward to co-parenting with Amanda.”


PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is in previews June 10 – June 23, 2017 and runs June 24 – September 4, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public in March, but members of our Saints & Poets Society and Festival Circles have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

Cold Reading: Davis Goes to Denver

The following is the first in our ongoing series
Cold Reading: Winter insights on the upcoming season from Artistic Director Davis McCallum

Dear Friends,

I’m writing you from Denver, where I’m at the end of the first week of rehearsal for THE BOOK OF WILL by Lauren Gunderson. We’ll be mounting the show here at the Denver Center Theater Company at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in January, then again at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival Theater Tent this summer. The play tells the unlikely story of two actors in Shakespeare’s company, who take it upon themselves to ensure the survival of his plays by collecting and publishing them as the First Folio (The Collected Works of William Shakespeare) in 1623 [read more]. It’s funny and heartbreaking and full of lip-smackingly juicy parts for actors. I love it and am having loads of fun rehearsing it. I’m especially looking forward to seeing how it changes and grows over two productions, in two very different spaces.

We started on Tuesday with a big meet and greet and design presentation. It was very inspiring to hear Lauren talk about how and why she started writing the play. We share a strong conviction that Shakespeare belongs to everyone, and the 36 plays contained in the First Folio reflect the full range of what it means to be human. The more I work on the play, the more I am convinced that it’s really a story of a theater company more than it is the story of the creation of a famous book. And that’s something that I relate very strongly to HVSF.

We have a brilliant dramaturge on the show here in Denver, Doug Langworthy. He’s an old friend of mine from Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and he’s been at the Denver Center for the last decade or so. His role is to be an advocate for the play, and to help the playwright and director in making a show that expresses as fully as possible the play’s potential. In this context, he’s provided myself and the cast with an exhaustively researched packet full of information about the First Folio, Shakespeare’s theater company, Jacobean society, clothes, manners, money, publishing, copyright, etcetera… anything that might have bearing on the events of the play. It’s great fun to have him in rehearsal because he knows so much about the world of the play, and can be a great resource to the rest of the team as we make all the different choices that go into a production.

We’ve had six days of rehearsal, and we spent the first few around the table reading the play to each other. And then for the last couple of days, we’ve been up on our feet, making the first feeble stabs at staging the various scenes. The company here is wonderful and we’re all excited about the direction that it’s going.

Denver is lovely, but I miss my family and the Hudson Highlands. Wishing everyone there a great start to the holiday season!

More next week…





THE BOOK OF WILL is in previews June 9 – June 21, 2017 and runs June 22 – July 28, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public in March, but members of our Saints & Poets Society and Festival Circles have early access. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

Our Lady of Will: Playwright Lauren Gunderson on THE BOOK OF WILL

“When I came across the story of the First Folio printing, I was struck by the many rich characters involved and the myriad ways they could’ve not succeeded,” said THE BOOK OF WILL playwright Lauren Gunderson on a recent November phone call. “It spoke to so many themes — lineage, mortality, legacy, family, friendship — and I was excited to write a new play about a timeless subject: how art lasts beyond the humans who make it.”

First Folio, noun \ˈfərst\ˈfō-lē-ˌō\
The 1623 published collection of 36 of William Shakespeare’s plays, otherwise known as Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies.

THE BOOK OF WILL, a rolling world premiere set for the HVSF Theater Tent June 9 – July 28, 2017, follows the lives of two actors in Shakespeare’s own company, Henry Condell and John Heminges, as they navigate the preservation and printing of Shakespeare’s work in the early 1600s. With no money, no easy way of authenticating Shakespeare’s catalogue of plays, and a deep desire to get everything right, the pair enlist the help of their wives and colleagues to bring the iconic stories of Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Othello, and so many more to the world.

Gunderson, an Atlanta native recently named the most produced living playwright in America by American Theatre Magazine, often writes historical dramas. “I fancy theater as a kind of time travel. We’re not just seeing a world but actively visiting it.” Many of her dramatis personae are respected women in the sciences: astronomers, mathematicians… so what of the women supporting Shakespeare’s all-male company?

“Even though women tended not to be acknowledged onstage or in historical record during Shakespeare’s day, Condell and Heminges both named their wives as executors of their wills,” said Gunderson. “This is a big deal because it meant that they respected them enough to, essentially, hand over their legacies. It was a natural jumping off point for me.”

As the noise and color of Elizabethan London begin to unfold onstage, so, too, do the desires, doubts, and egos of a diverse band of relatable friends. “Shakespeare doesn’t need our help in idolizing him, but humanizing him,” said Gunderson. “Stories of him at the bar with friends, of him being heartbroken or frustrated, of those he left behind in death… they resonate.”

“History walks again here. Love is lived again. Loss is met and survived and wept for and understood here and not the first time but every time.”

One particularly affecting scene finds Condell and Heminges on a darkened Globe stage in the middle of the night, united in mourning. Gunderson admits that it dragged her into the phenomenon of storytelling itself: “The scene came out all in one big rush and spun me off into… why? Why do we do this together? We still go see Romeo & Juliet. We still go see Richard II. Why? It became the heart of the entire story.”

Gunderson and the show’s director, HVSF Artistic Director Davis McCallum, will get the chance to further investigate that heart in the new year, as the play experiences its first staged performances by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company (January 13 – February 26, 2017). A number of Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival favorites – including powerhouse couple Kurt Rhoads and Nance Williamson – will perform in Denver’s production before the show is reimagined for HVSF’s Theater Tent by McCallum.

Not a ‘Shakespeare person’? Not a problem for Gunderson. “Ultimately, it’s an underdog tale. I hope our audiences will see it as a powerful story of friendship and legacy.”


THE BOOK OF WILL is in previews June 9 – June 21, 2017 and runs June 22 – July 28, 2017. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.