Harlem Summer Shakespeare Bringing Free Performances Of “Romeo & Juliet” To Outdoor Audiences

June 27, 2014  |  

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun.”

So says Romeo of his lady love Juliet. And so it will be said by Jordan Bellow and Stella Heath (above) in this year’s performance of the play about these young star-crossed lovers when Harlem Summer Shakespeare returns to New York’s Riverbank State Park starting July 23.

Through August 17, the theater group will be offering free performances Wednesday through Sunday at 8pm. Co-produced by Riverbank State Park, the production aims to make Shakespeare accessible to a diverse audience with a contemporary take on these familiar stories while keeping the Bard’s English in tact.

“Originally it was more people who knew and loved Shakespeare only, but now we see a wide variety of new people joining us who ask ‘Is this a movie?’ when they first come into the amphitheatre, and who then stay and enjoy the show,” Alexa Kelly, head of Harlem Summer Shakespeare and the director of “Romeo and Juliet” told us via email. She’s directed all of summer productions of the last decade. She’s also co-founder and artistic director of the Pulse Ensemble Theater, which is responsible for these summer stagings. “More parents bring their children to see the shows also, and we have a regular following of senior citizens who tell us they are waiting for opening night, and who see the show many times over the summer run.”

With co-producer Riverbank State Park and support from local politicians, Con Edison, the Department of Cultural Affairs and other organizations and individuals, Harlem Summer Shakespeare is preparing for this summer’s run. Each year, the group brings a version of Shakespeare’s iconic stories that resonate with a modern and diverse audience. Part of that is the multicultural casting. Another is incorporating fresh elements into the production.

“We use contemporary and diverse music as the soundtrack for the play,” writes Kelly. “This year we will be incorporating  STEPPING into the play, as we feel this will surprise, enthrall and engage the audiences (both those who are familiar with it, and those who are not).”

For more info about Pulse Ensemble, click here. And if you know about a free theater production in your area, please post it in the comments. It’s just one more great thing to do this summer.

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