Some Other Shakespeare (SOS) in the Park

New York, NY vest-pocket parks, 1996 and 1997

In collaboration with performers Frank Bradley and Seana Lee Wyman, I founded Some OTHER Shakespeare in the Park. Between 1996 and 1997, we produced and I directed Much Ado about Nothing in Bryant Park (behind the main New York Public Library) and Twelfth Night in Madison Square Park (across from the Flatiron Building).

I began my career in theatre as an apprentice at a free Shakespeare festival. I was fourteen. I was in love with the idea of free theatre in a park on a summer evening. I still am. Anyone could come, could learn, be moved and take a fantastic journey. As a young director, I felt very much that Shakespeare was home, but I had yet to direct any. In the winter of 1996, I read Joe Papp’s biography, An American Life; I was both daunted and invigorated by what I read. I realized that no one was going to hire me to direct Shakespeare, perversely, until I had already done it. I turned to Frank and Seana, good friends and artists from my home town, from that same Shakespeare festival where I had apprenticed, and said, “Why don’t we do some free Shakespeare this summer?”

I learned to negotiate with the bureaucracy of the City, with film producers who wanted the same location for a shoot, with Actors’ Equity, with funding sources great and small.  I learned that producing on a small scale meant attending to postcards, press releases, soliciting funds, shopping for costumers, and carting rapiers & daggers on the New York City subway.  When we performed, the park was noisy with traffic, gospel singers, dogs barking and frisbee players. But the playgoers gave themselves over to the story, laughing and weeping along with Beatrice and Hero. Free theatre in a park on a summer evening. Anyone could take our fantastic journey, and they did.

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Shut up at the beginning.
– Alan Rickman on directing

You lie, in faith, for you are called plain Kate,
And bonny Kate, and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom,
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate,
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation…
--The Taming of the Shrew, Act II, scene i