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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Joe Papp and Shakespeare in the Park

The American tradition of Free Shakespeare in public parks has its strongest foundation in the efforts and achievements of one man, Joseph Papp, in New York City.

After running a Shakespearean Workshop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Papp staged free productions of Julius Caesar and The Taming of the Shrew in a nearby park. From the local community, he attracted audience members who had never seen a play before. From the New York Times, his plays garnered positive reviews, which attracted more experienced and well-to-do theater goers. So began The New York Shakespeare Festival. As educator and critic Julius Novick has observed (and Novick was a volunteer apprentice for early productions): “It was a simple idea, once somebody had thought of it, but it was Joe Papp whose example was imitated in city parks all over America.”

The Festival soon moved to Central Park; Papp later won a hard-fought victory over Robert Moses, New York City’s parks commissioner, who unsuccessfully demanded charging admission; Moses then became a surprising ally, joining with donor George Delacorte in building a permanent home for Free Shakespeare. The Delacorte Theatre opened in June 1962 with The Merchant of Venice – and is open to this day.

The list of actors who have graced the Delacorte stage is an impressive one, including Lauren Ambrose, Annette Bening, Andre Braugher, Blythe Danner, Keith David, Rosario Dawson, Ruby Dee, Colleen Dewhurst, Olympia Dukakis, Morgan Freeman, Marcia Gay Harden, Mariette Hartley, Anne Hathaway, Helen Hunt, William Hurt, Oscar Isaac, Chuk Iwuji, James Earl Jones, Raul Julia, Stacy Keach, Kevin Kline, John Lithgow, Audra McDonald, Janet McTeer, Al Pacino, Lily Rabe, Phylicia Rashad, Liev Schreiber, George C. Scott, Martin Sheen, Patrick Stewart, Corey Stoll, Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Denzel Washington, Sam Waterston, Kathleen Widdoes, and Diane Wiest.

Follow this link for audio and a transcript of an interview with Kenneth Turan about his oral history of the early years of the New York Shakespeare Festival, Free for All.  


You can follow this link to hear FSC Education Director Stephen Buhler connect Papp's innovations (including most of the backstory provided above) with developments in Nebraska. It's one of Steve's "Shakespeariences" for NET Radio, originally broadcast 2013-14.


Saturday, August 04, 2018

4 out of 20 Top Productions!

The Lincoln Journal Star recently selected 20 top productions from the last two decades of theater in the area. Four Flatwater Shakespeare shows are listed!  Here's some of what reviewer Larry L. Kubert had to say about them -- 

Taming of the Shrew
Directed by Bob Hall, 2008
Shakespeare meets Sergio Leone meets situation comedy, with a little bit of The Cisco Kid thrown in. Excellent performances were delivered by two of Lincoln’s leading actors, Melissa Lewis and the late George Hansen. The fire and fury that the pair brought was outstanding.

Julius Caesar
Directed by Bob Hall, 2009
The corrosive moral destructive power of ambition, envy, and corruption, set in a political arena, was the thrust of this production, [which explored] the motivations behind, and repercussions of, the assassination of the arrogant Caesar. The tempo of the drama played out with patience and perspective, ultimately allowing for appropriate climactic peaks of intensity. Brad Boesen's portrayal of Brutus was one couched in intense character concentration.

Directed by Bob Hall, 2015
In the most impressive portrayal of Hamlet that I have ever seen, Matt Lukasiewicz made a choice in the development of his character to shy away from the brooding depression often associated with the role and instead attacked the part with a ferocious emotional intensity that was staggering. That intensity fluctuated between anger and rage at his father’s murder and his mock psychosis façade, with the power in both [proving] forceful and penetrating in their effectiveness. Excellent stuff.

The Merchant of Venice
Directed by Tom Crew, 2016
Religious prejudice and bigotry can become prime subjects for dramatic scrutiny. Such subjects allow an opportunity for self-reflection and examination of attitudes and actions taken under the guise of a specific faith or creed. Merchant [offers] comedy and romance amid multiple story lines, but religious bias is the catalyst that drives the play and [ensures] discomfort for contemporary audiences. Dramatic tutorials were delivered by Richard Nielsen as Antonio and Patrick Lambrecht as Shylock.

Photo: Matt Lukasiewicz as Hamlet. Photo Credit: John Nollendorfs.