OuterStage Round-Table: Shakespeare in New York

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Carrie Edel Isaacman’s theatrical troupe earns its name this fall by presenting a double header: The Tempest in Brooklyn and then, Park to Park, with Two Gentlemen of Verona. For the astute aficionado of the bard you know these are his first and last plays. Ms. Isaacman is doing them literally throughout New York, opening at Brooklyn’s Brick theatre and then touring the parks of Upper Bronx/Westchester and Queens – and of course, Manhattan. What Shakespeare Festival would be complete without a stopover at Central Park as a follow-up to the Public Theater’s venerable annual event.

We interviewed Ms. Isaacman earlier but wanted to give her artists a chance to discuss the effect of Shakespeare in New York … in schools … now.

12191541_10208489770905360_1128158401174525603_n.jpgLily Fryburg, playing Antonia in The Tempest, looked at the text and how it has remained timeless.

Shakespearean plays are poetry in motion: sharing imagery through speech while characters are put through very intense or very silly situations. Acting in his plays, for me, is one of the most challenging (and rewarding) type of acting because the text demands that our characters discover what they’re saying on the line, forcing us to always be present. We do this while leaning into the rhythm and alliteration of the text to create vivid imagery and character. For students, I think the drama (the high stakes, the intense desire, the bold decisions) is relatable. Everything feels like the end of the world or the start of a new beginning to most teenagers. (I remember feeling that way once!) The comedy is also fun to dissect, uncovering the smart wordplay Shakespeare employed. On top of that, Shakespeare is a great introduction to poetry for students. Even when you read a soliloquy out loud with no emotion, images and emotions and intentions spring to life.

Stephanay Louis took aim at education and the Bard:

I believe that Shakespeare should be taught in schools – but in a more interactive way. We should be telling them about 10 Things I Hate About You and movies based on Shakespeare’s plays. We should be asking students to figure out what the movie kept and how they strayed and if they liked the deviation or not. Right now, Shakespeare is seen as boring and taught in a very basic way, but when you understand him, there is so much more to be found in his words.

18341637_10212931228456488_4017734040295744042_n.jpgByron Hagan, pulling double duty in The Tempest and Two Gentlemen of Verona offered-up a soliloquy:

Sometimes when you try to talk about Shakespeare, or any of the classics, with anyone, you’re met with a blank stare and a shrug. In a world that’s so consumed with the rise of technology and the latest gadget, we do often forget to slow down and appreciate the moment we’re in right now. I can only talk about how Shakespeare is important from the perspective of how it’s important to ME and how I’ve seen it affect other people. Shakespeare is the kind of text that’s most affective when you get up and do it. It’s not totally unlike Chekhov, where his text can read completely uninterestingly until you say it and start to become aware of his characters’ psychology. What I find most valuable about Shakespeare, more so than his poetry, is his variety and flexibility. He has something for everyone. No matter who you are or what your life circumstances are, there’s is always a Shakespeare character that will speak directly to that; someone that can put into delicious words what you’ve been feeling all this time. Even if someone doesn’t at first grasp the vocabulary, there’s always some immediate, if even small, emotional grasp of what’s being said, especially if you hear it spoken by a good actor.

Shakespeare saves lives. It’s a proven effective tool in prison reform and thanks to mobile theater programs like at The Public Theater, live performances of the bards words can reach more people than ever. Shakespeare connects us in ways nothing else can. Really it’s theater itself that connects us, helps us understand each other better. It’s that empathy that could help create a better world in even the smallest of ways. Too many people are far too willing to disconnect from each other for the sake of a false sense of security and comfort, but when our day finally comes, we’ll wish we had spent more time with people.

Lastly, I’d like to just speak on the practical importance of Shakespeare to artists and students. It’s invaluable to eduction: it increases literacy and helps decrease the odds of children being delinquent or getting in trouble. It helps create a positive sense of community for children at a young age, promoting a free exchange of ideas in both them and adult artists. Absorbing and understanding the complex words and ideas of the classics is a skill set all it’s own, and a necessary one. Free thinking is the cornerstone of progress. It’s how we all grow together as one and we need much more of it.

I have a one year old son and at least one of his books is a children’s book of A Midsummer Nights Dream. I guarantee you I’ll be right there reading him those plays when he’s older. In fact I already read passages from random ones from time to time, and I can tell you, he hears it, and he responds. You better believe that, as a parent, I’ll give his mind every single opportunity to grow. Also The Hobbit, I’m counting the years until I can read him The Hobbit.”

 

The Brick is located at 579 Metropolitan Ave in Brooklyn. Take the L to Lorimer or the G to Metropolitan. The festival runs August 12 – 31, 2019. Tickets will be available at the Brick Theater website at http://www.bricktheater.com on the August calendar. Partial tickets cost will be donated to Citizen Schools.

Park Schedule:

September 26 at 5:30 pm Summit Rock in Central Park
Subway Directions: Take 1 to 86th Street or A to B or C to 86th Street

September 28 at 2:30 pm in Dongan Park in Fort Tryon Park (near Anne Loftus playground) Subway Directions: A to 190th

September 29 at 2:30 pm Athens Park in Astoria Queens
Directions: A or 1 train, transfer to the N at 57th and 7th, take N towards Queens, exit at 30th Avenue – Grand Avenue

October 5 at 2:30 pm Summit Rock in Central Park
Subway Directions: Take 1 to 86th Street or A to B or C to 86th Street

October 6 at 2:30 pm in Billings Lawn in Fort Tryon Park
Subway Directions: A to 190th 

October 13 at 2:30 pm Summit Rock in Central Park
Subway Directions: Take 1 to 86th Street or A to B or C to 86th Street

October 19 at 2:30 pm Athens Park in Astoria Queens
Directions: A or 1 train, transfer to the N at 57th and 7th, take N towards Queens, exit at 30th Avenue – Grand Avenue

October 20 at 2:30 pm Athens Park in Astoria Queens
Directions: A or 1 train, transfer to the N at 57th and 7th, take N towards Queens, exit at 30th Avenue – Grand Avenue

October 27 at 2:30 pm Summit Rock in Central Park
Subway Directions: Take 1 to 86th Street or A to B or C to 86th Street

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