Revolutionary & Hopped Up on Language: Davis McCallum on THE BOOK OF WILL

Blog-BOOK Davis HeadshotI never refer to Shakespeare as “The Bard.”

Here’s why: “The Bard” conjures for me an image of Shakespeare, a long time ago and
far far away, gazing out a gothic window at the Warwickshire countryside. As he strokes his mustache, his quill is ready to deliver his genius to the page. He’s untouchable, remote, more a literary demi-god than a man. This person is a stranger to me. And I’m not sure I like him.

At Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, our Will Shakespeare is a man of the theater — himself an actor and shareholder in The King’s Men, the theater company he founded with his friends and colleagues, and for whom he wrote every single one of his plays. This Shakespeare is unapologetically Elizabethan and yet utterly our contemporary — weird, bawdy, passionate, poetic, revolutionary, humane, hopped up on language, and bursting with the confidence that anything is possible in the theater when the power of the human imagination is unlocked by the right words in the care of a great actor. This Shakespeare belongs to everyone, and it’s his ability to capture our shared humanity that makes his plays resonate today.


“Our Will Shakespeare is utterly our contemporary – weird, bawdy, passionate, poetic, revolutionary, humane, hopped up on language, and bursting with the confidence that anything is possible…”


When I first read THE BOOK OF WILL, I found this same Shakespeare on every page of Lauren’s play. And I was so excited by the discovery that I called her that same day and
asked if we could produce the world premiere at HVSF.

Although the plot of the play concerns the making of the First Folio — one of the single most important and influential events in the history of publishing — it’s not a play about a book. It’s a play about a theater company. At the heart of the play is the friendship between two actors in the company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, who take upon themselves the task of saving their friend’s words from near-certain oblivion. And now, four hundred years later, those words have not only survived: they have given so many people so much joy, and solace, and courage. The simple fact that we are all together under this magnificent test is a testament to the life-force contained within them.

So, in the spirit of the play, I’d like to propose a toast…

Not “To The Bard,” but: “To Will!”

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THE BOOK OF WILL
By Lauren Gunderson | Directed by Davis McCallum
Previews June 9 – June 21, 2017
Running June 22 – July 28, 2017
Rolling World Premiere

this production is supported in part by
THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS

Revisiting WillFest

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival hosted a day-long celebration of Shakespeare and all things theater titled WillFest. Through free, all-ages activities, several hundred community members filtered in and out of St. Mary’s Parish Hall, the HVSF Administrative Office, the Old VFW Hall, the Cold Spring Waterfront, and along Cold Spring’s Main Street for performances, workshops, movie screenings, and activities.

Here’s a quick look back at the day’s festivities! Photos by Gabe Palacio. 


Costume Photo Booth with HVSF at the Cold Spring Farmers’ Market

…and our next big star, Eamon!

Performance: Scenes from ROMEO & JULIET with HVSF

This production is currently serving over 31 schools through our Spring Education Tour and will visit several regional venues this summer as part of our HVSF On the Road series!

Performance: Scenes from “The Seussification of Romeo & Juliet” with Students from Garrison Union Free School

Performance: “Academy Idol” Monologues with West Point Cadets

Workshop: Theater Games with HVSF Teaching Artist Gianna Cioffi

Gianna is one of four Resident Teaching Artists who brings HVSF Education programming – such as in-school workshops and residencies – to regional schools.

Workshop: “Shakespeare Shakedown” with The Middle Company

Workshop: Stage Combat with HVSF Teaching Artist Michael Irish and Students from Haldane High School

Around Town: Trivia, Movie Screenings, Discount Partners, Art Making & Info at the HVSF Office, and More!

Over 20 local businesses offered special discounts to attendees sporting their WillFest stickers, and our program partners – Cold Spring Film Society, Story Screen Beacon, The Middle Company, Cold Spring Farmers’ Market, Garrison Union Free School, Haldane High School, and the United States Military Academy at West Point – had the chance to engage locals and visitors alike. Many thanks to all of our program partners, discount partners, and donating partners (Whistling Willie’s in Cold Spring for their donation of movie screening popcorn and Grey Printing for their donation of art-making supplies)!

Volunteer staff support provided by students from NYU’s Goddard Residential College Service Learning Program, led by Cold Spring resident and 2016 OUR TOWN actor Megan Shea. 

First Look: 2017 Rehearsals Begin

Long before the Theater Tent is erected on the edge of the Hudson, our acting company gathers in New York City to begin the rehearsal process — memorizing lines, developing their characters, reviewing sets and costumes with designers, meeting staff and supporters, and more. Go behind the scenes with our 2017 company! Photos by Ashley Garrett.

HVSF Meet & Greet 2017-21

Longtime fan favorites Jason O’Connell and Kurt Rhoads

HVSF Meet & Greet 2017-29

THE BOOK OF WILL Playwright Lauren Gunderson joins in from the West Coast

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Company members Kimberly Chatterjee and Sean McNall with HVSF supporter Siew Thye Stinson

Previews of TWELFTH NIGHT, THE BOOK OF WILL, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE begin June 8. Meet the cast under the Theater Tent this summer!

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It’s almost time for tickets!

We’ve been hard at work putting a brand new system in place that will make your experience of buying HVSF tickets faster and easier. On Wednesday, March 15, you’ll get the chance to try it out when tickets go on sale to the public!

Follow these steps to make sure you’re ready for the big day:

STEP 1 >> Click here to reset your password (or create a new account).

STEP 2 >> Use the email address with which you most often purchase tickets to fill out the Forgot Password form, and click the button EMAIL PASSWORD LINK TO ME.

STEP 3 >> Check your email and click on the link provided to set your new password.

STEP 4 >> Click CONTINUE and you’re all set! You will automatically be logged in.

What’s next?
You will hear from us again on Wednesday, March 15th, alerting you when HVSF tickets are available online. So long as you are logged in, you will have full access to your account, mail/email preferences, offers, and more.

What’s the best part?
Once logged in, you should remain logged in (think Amazon, but for the effervescent, outdoor theater you love). Still, it’s a good idea to make a note of your password – just in case.

What if I want to change my email address or personal information?
No problem – you can do so once you’ve logged in!

Questions?
Please contact the Box Office at boxoffice@hvshakespeare.org or 845.265.9575.

Kate Hamill’s Top 7 ‘Musts’ for an Ideal Mr. Darcy

When considering Jane Austen’s aloof, hard-headed Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, which devilishly handsome leading man comes to mind? If you’re like anyone with access to BBC or A&E in the mid-’90s, Colin Firth may be your go-to embodiment of this unlikely romantic hero, having appeared in 1995’s made-for-television Pride & Prejudice directed by Simon Langton.

“Women being attracted to [Mr. Darcy] took me by surprise,” Firth recently told The Daily Mail. “When I took on the role it seemed to me that he was imperious and stiff and forbidding, and I didn’t know what there was to play apart from him scowling all the time. I thought it would be quite fun and liberating to play someone who was completely and utterly dislikeable, unsympathetic, judgmental and snobbish.”

Darcy may find a foe in Firth, but a friend in playwright Kate Hamill. Hamill’s playful adaptation of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE makes its debut under the HVSF Theater Tent this summer, and not without the weirdo women (and men) who’ve become signature players in a Hamill adaptation.

“I’m so disinterested in beautiful, perfect people,” beamed Hamill. “Lizzy Bennet’s a total weirdo and should be treated as such. She and Darcy are both odd ducks… odd ducks that swim together.”

So how will Hamill’s Odd Duck Darcy shape up this summer? Here are her top seven must-haves in an ideal leading man:

  1. Righteous: “He tries to do the right thing all the time”
  2. Smart: “He’s capable of being quite nerdy.”
  3. Stubborn: “That’s a big one!”
  4. Principled: “He has to be someone with a lot of integrity.”
  5. Funny: “Intentionally and unintentionally, for sure.”
  6. Magnetic: “Someone you feel a deep connection with.”
  7. But, above all: “HUMAN! There’s just no other way to put it.”

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE is in previews June 10 – June 23, 2017 and runs June 24 – September 4, 2017. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

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Love is a Devil: Director Ian Belknap on LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

If LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST Director Ian Belknap had answers to his questions, he probably wouldn’t be exploring them onstage with us this summer.

This classic tale of eight unwitting young lovers follows a familiar trajectory: Boys make a pact. Attractive girls arrive. Love blossoms, and the pact is no more. It’s an age-old story told and retold in Tennyson’s The Princess, Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida, and even – to some extent – in Dennis Dugan’s block-buster film Saving Silverman.


“I would forget her; but a fever she
Reigns in my blood and will remember’d be.”

Dumain, LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST


O, the weight of young love!

Still, layers of self-discovery, emotional curiosity, and forbidden romance within LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST continue to resonate onstage. Belknap finds that first piece – self-discovery – particularly worthy of reexamination this year, as LOVE’S cast, the HVSF Conservatory Company, embark on a unique journey of their own. Following the Conservatory Company’s appearance under the theater tent this summer, these eight young actors will bring the show on tour to schools with The Acting Company (for which Belknap serves as Artistic Director) leading finally to their acceptance into Actors’ Equity, a key milestone in the life of a professional actor.

“These are eight actors depicting eight lovers, and so much more,” noted Belknap. “Our cut is fast-paced with players moving fluidly between roles and there’s something powerful about these emerging actors playing similarly-aged students and their educated instructors. Student becomes teacher, just as the princess becomes the queen in the final notes of Act 5.”


“Masculine desire… what is it? What is love when you’re young?”

– Ian Belknap


One might say this play, in particular, is itself a labor of love: “LOVE’S offers some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful, but densely written, language. It’s tough for any actor, but once you’ve done it… you’ve done it.”

“And only a writer of Shakespeare’s caliber would have the courage to craft that final scene,” admitted Belknap. “‘The news I bring is heavy in my tongue. The king, your father’ is dead. Seriously?! It’s devastating because Shakespeare waits until the absolute last second to bring the news of the King’s death. It’s shocking because there has been little to no foreshadowing and then, at the 23rd hour, BOOM. Childhood ends. These characters – these actors – take up the mantle of adulthood.”

But let’s get back to that youthful romance…

“As is the case with ROMEO & JULIET, my hope is that students can easily see themselves in LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST because they’ve been here before,” admitted Belknap. “They’ve known young love, forbidden love. They’ve made the same jokes about the teachers and adults in their lives. They know what trying to maintain one’s honor means. To them, it means an awful lot.”

 

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST runs August 14 – August 29, 2017 under the tent (including free family matinees on August 15, 22, and 29), and tours with The Acting Company this fall. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) 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.

Once a Teacher, Always a Student: Poughkeepsie Educator Reflects on Methods

Students to the north in Poughkeepsie, NY – a historic, sprawling city on the Hudson River – have found a literary champion in middle school English teacher Elizabeth Morehead. Morehead, an educator at Orville A. Todd Middle School, participated in HVSF’s Teachers’ Shakespeare Institute nearly a decade ago. Ten years later, she’s still sharing the energy, methods, and impact she discovered there with her own students:

When I reflect upon my twelve years in teaching English Language Arts on the secondary level, there is one defining moment that changed my approach to teaching literature overall. It was in the summer of 2007 that I attended the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s (HVSF) Teachers’ Institute and suddenly there was a distinctive ”before and after” in my educational methodology.

Over a career in the classroom, a teacher is offered a myriad of professional development opportunities, some more worthwhile than others. During a summer, ten years ago, I was being trained in: using a Smartboard in the classroom, implementing a new online grading system, and tracking students’ achievement in reading using another online program. It was serendipitous that I was then introduced to HVSF. In pursuit of solid techniques to teach Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to eighth grade students, I discovered this organization. What I did not know then was that attending this professional development opportunity with HVSF would not only fortify me with sound educational procedures to teach Shakespeare’s dramas, but it would also impact my approach to teaching literature. I am markedly more confident in my delivery of instruction when tackling Shakespeare and have been asked to teach students and teachers at colleges in the Hudson Valley who are looking for ways to learn or enhance their approach. All of this success I owe to my training with HVSF.


“…it would also impact my approach to teaching literature.”

– Elizabeth Morehead, educator


In both the seventh and eighth grade classroom, I continue to employ methods learned from that very first HVSF Teachers’ Institute and from the close to ten institutes I have attended subsequently. In fact, many of the techniques I use with students are all methods used with the literature we read and analyze prior to diving into Shakespeare. Students are schooled in the methods of working with the text to validate their ideas, choices and stances with poems, short stories, novels and autobiographical works we read. Well before we begin reading and performing Shakespeare, students are accustomed to approaching literature in this manner and that allows us to be able to focus on the rigor of Shakespeare’s writing which very often feels antique and lofty to today’s student.

Because of my work with HVSF’s Teachers’ Institute and the organization at large, I have been able to add Macbeth to our seventh grade curriculum and, in turn, have been given the opportunity of exposing students to Shakespeare at a younger age when they are less hesitant and free from the fear people generally associate with reading, performing, and even watching Shakespeare’s works. I have taken on the responsibility of making most, if not all, of my students’ first experience with Shakespeare positive and highly engaging. I would not be able to do so without the invaluable approaches I have learned with the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.


“I have been given the opportunity of exposing students to Shakespeare at a younger age, when they are less hesitant and free from the fear people generally associate with reading…”

– Elizabeth Morehead, educator


Former students who come back to visit after high school and college continue to reminisce about their Shakespeare experience in middle school. Some students say it sparked a love for his work. Others say, “I wish teachers presented Shakespeare’s plays the way you did,” and many just want to laugh at the memories we made exploring the play through performance. These compliments I owe to HSVF and the methods they have given me over the last ten years in making Shakespeare not just accessible, but memorable to students with a wide variety of abilities.

 

Thanks, Elizabeth! Learn more about HVSF’s Teachers’ Shakespeare Institute here

 

Our American Identity: Director Penny Metropulos on THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA

“What’s going on outside is enormous,” offered Director Penny Metropulos, delving into the cultural context of this season’s THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA by Richard Nelson. “Protests, battles, meetings of congress, the war raging on – still, the interactions between characters are so personal, so intimate.”

THE GENERAL, first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1996, follows the treasonous plot of Benedict Arnold as he plans his defection and flight from a fledgling United States. Long reviled by most Americans and world historians as a traitor, Arnold’s 1779 struggle with our newborn nation is revisited in this powerful text, exposing “the puritanical hypocrisy and corruption that marched beside the heralded courage of our national beginnings.” (The Village Voice)

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Royal Shakespeare Company’s premiere production of THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA. Photo by Zuleika Henry.

“What I love about this play is its humanism,” Metropulos revealed. “Nelson gives us an intimate, crystalline, personal look at these characters who, for so long, have been larger than life in our minds.” Revolutionary War-era staples such as George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the malefactor himself, Benedict Arnold, move fluidly between scenes, currying favor of leadership, chiding one another, bemoaning personal circumstance, exposing their own fragility.

Unique to this summer’s production is something HVSF doesn’t usually get to explore with Shakespeare’s works: site specificity. Arnold’s own command at West Point, now known as the United States Military Academy, can be seen from the Theater Tent on the opposite bank of the Hudson. Many of Arnold’s key stops along his escape path lie on HVSF’s side of the river, with historical markers noticeable along local paths and roadways.


“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans.”

– Penny Metropulos


“I’m always interested in anything that makes me study harder and it seems like a good time to brush up on American history,” admitted Metropulos.

“This play is part and parcel of our identity as Americans and all the contradictions and complexities therein: our ideas about loyalty to country versus loyalty to our neighbors, feelings of personal dishonor, the fear that our stories and opinions may not be heard, the disillusionment we sometimes feel about our country, and our never ending search for the true meaning of freedom… it’s all here.”


“Good plays and good actors tell stories.”

– Penny Metropulos


Still, Metropulos is quick to assert that she’s not aiming to make a personal statement on stage, but to put on a great show: “I don’t think it’s my place to make assumptions for or about our audience or their politics. Good plays and good actors tell stories. Seeing historical figures in this new light, we very well may question our assumptions about our shared American history.

THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA is in previews August 4 – 7, 2017 and runs August 8 – September 3, 2017. Season tickets go on sale to the public March 15, but members of our Saints & Poets Society (March 8) and Festival Circles (March 1) 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.

Returning HVSF Actors Bring ROMEO & JULIET to 16,000 Students

Our 2017 Spring Education Tour, a vibrant ROMEO & JULIET directed by Tom Ridgely, is slated to visit over 30 schools throughout the tri-state area from March to May. Supported by a National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Shakespeare in American Communities grant, HVSF will reimagine this classic tale for modern audiences in grades 6 and above – many from underserved communities – with a diverse cast of seven.

Returning to HVSF are 2016 Conservatory Company member Jessica-Brittany Smith (Juliet), 2016 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM tour’s Amanda Thickpenny (Lady Capulet), and 2015 MACBETH tour’s Jon Cook (Friar & Benvolio). Wolf CR (Mercutio), James Hesse (Romeo), Monica Jones (Nurse), and Virginia Shakespeare Festival standout Rod Singleton (Capulet & Tybalt) have also signed on.

Ridgely, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2014 Phil Killian Directing Fellow and founder of the New York-based theater ensemble Waterwell, will reimagine the Montagues and Capulets within a New England prep school environment. Sean McNall, HVSF’s Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education, estimates that roughly 16,000 students will experience a performance, take part in post-show talkbacks, and heighten their understanding of the production with an accompanying ROMEO & JULIET study guide. Half of this group will also benefit from an in-school, five-day residency with HVSF Teaching Artists.

“Our Education Tours take the same approach to Shakespeare as HVSF’s mainstage productions,” McNall noted. “Performances are fast-paced, athletic, energetic, and playful – an ideal equation for younger audiences – and rigorously maintain the depth and integrity of Shakespeare’s texts. We are very grateful to the NEA for their ongoing support of HVSF’s Education Programs, which encompass performance experiences, professional training, and theater education for the next generation.”

ROMEO & JULIET will run March 20 – May 5, 2017 with a possible extension May 8 – 12 and additional sum-mer dates currently in discussion. Approximate running time is 1 hour 30 minutes, including a talkback with the actors. To learn more about this touring production and HVSF’s Education programs, or to book a performance, please visit hvshakespeare.org/education or contact HVSF’s Associate Director of Education, Nora Rosoff, at (845) 809-5750 ext. 13 or nora@hvshakespeare.org.

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Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production of ROMEO & JULIET is part of Shakespeare in American Communities, a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest

Read the full release here.

His Fantastical Allegory: Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel talks TWELFTH NIGHT

A young woman in disguise. A lost twin brother. A powerful nobleman. A beautiful, grief-stricken noble lady. An enlightened, musical fool. Beguiling letters, boisterous drunks, and reveling pranksters. TWELFTH NIGHT, often considered one of Shakespeare’s finest comedies, is – unsurprisingly – one of our resident playwright’s most profound.

“What I really love about this play,” noted TWELFTH NIGHT Director Moritz von Stuelpnagel, “is in a world where people find themselves upended by their own circumstance – shipwrecked, saddled with unrequited feelings or the death of a loved one – they’re still able to find the love and redemption they seek. These are real people finding language for human situations.”


“These are real people finding language for human situations.”

– Moritz von Stuelpnagel


Von Stuelpnagel, the Tony-nominated talent behind Broadway’s Hand to God and upcoming Present Laughter starring Kevin Kline, seeks a sort of redemption of his own from stage to stage: “We all curate a kind of facade, a public face,” he recently told Playbill, “but when the laughs and the parties end, I think we’re left with something darker and deeply human: ourselves, private, true.”

And what’s more deeply human than the figure of the clown (in TWELFTH NIGHT’s case, a fellow named Feste) embodying wisdom far beyond his peers? As clowning extraordinaire/SO PLEASE YOU Director Zachary Fine recently explained, the clown represents many human qualities – those we acknowledge, and those we often keep hidden: rambunctious hope, baffling chaos, ridiculousness, sublimity, brilliance, courage, curiosity, trepidation…


“Comedy gives us enough perspective to laugh at our own absurdity.”

– Moritz von Stuelpnagel


“My sense of humor comes from the need to laugh at suffering,” allowed Von Stuelpnagel. “Comedy gives us enough perspective to laugh at our own absurdity. I believe laughter is a healing force, allowing us to unite and reminding us how similar our experiences are.”

And unite we will this summer, as TWELFTH NIGHT’s vibrant musical universe expands along the Hudson, populated with a colorful slate of characters. But Von Stuelpnagel isn’t giving anything away. “I hope our production will exemplify a new kind of light, raucous spirit. Shakespeare, in my mind, reads like fantastical allegories… grotesque fairy tales. All I’ll say is that we’re telling a magical tale in a magical space. Expect a rollicking midsummer romp.”

We like the sound of that.

TWELFTH NIGHT is in previews June 8 – June 15, 2017 and runs June 16 – August 27, 2017. Are you between the ages of 16 and 35? Consider joining our Revelers or Teen Revelers program for exclusive discounts, events, and more.

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