Next Up: Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2
By Sally Deering
Never mind getting upstaged by fancy swordplay or an actor taking too long for his death scene. Hudson Shakespeare Company’s adaptable actors must endure teens on skateboards, barking dogs, ambulance sirens, even low-flying helicopters while they project the dense and rhyming lines of The Bard.
Such is the actor’s life when performing with the Hudson Shakespeare Company, now in its 25th year. This summer, the ensemble puts on three Shakespeare plays and will bring Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2 to Hamilton Park on Thurs, Aug. 18 at 7 pm. Admission is free thanks to support from the Hudson County Office of Cultural Affairs and other supporters of the arts.
On a recent Thursday evening, local park-goers gathered in Hamilton Park for Edward III.
In a quasi-amphitheater setting that turned the steps leading down from the gazebo into audience seating and the circular walkway surrounding the gazebo into the stage for the play, the actors adorned in capes, boots, breastplates and leather accoutrements acted Edward III against a moving backdrop of kids playing ball, people walking their dogs, and commuters heading home from a long day at the office.
Ben Forer who played King Edward paid the passers-by no mind as he began the play with Rhianna Latimer as Prince Ned and Conrad Arelius as Lord Audley discussing the King’s affairs. The only mishaps were when a sword wouldn’t budge from its holster, and a toddler on the loose entered – and stole – his scene. But Forer and the rest of the cast held tough even when a low-flying helicopter flew overhead and without further distraction, Edward wooed the Countess of Salisbury played by Rachel Matusewicz.
In 1992, L. Robert Johnson founded Hudson Shakespeare in Jersey City and brought Shakespeare to the parks and schools. He later partnered with Jon Ciccarelli, who took over the reigns as Artistic Director after Johnson passed in 2010. Ciccarelli directed Edward III.
Since then, Ciccarelli and his wife Noelle Fair direct the company’s season of Shakespeare and other plays. The team also works with Sarah Schlesinger who did the fight choreography for Edward III.
“We’ll decide a year ahead for our next summer titles,” Ciccarelli says. “A couple things we look for are what hasn’t the company done yet, and something the public doesn’t usually see. If it’s a title we have done before, we try to do a different spin on it. Three years ago, Noelle did a steampunk version of Macbeth with techno music.”
Hudson Shakespeare started out as a summer performances troupe and now does shows throughout the year in local schools, performing abridged versions of Shakespeare’s most popular plays like Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Hudson Shakespeare has expanded quite a bit,” Ciccarelli says, right after a rehearsal for Henry IV. “When we first started out, it was a lot of costume odds-and-ends, and sword rentals. I mentioned to Luther we should have our own stuff, so we started accumulating our costumes and weaponry.”
King Edward and Countess of Salisbury do a
mating dance in EDWARD III
The program for Edward III states it was written by William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd. When asked who Thomas Kyd was, and why he was getting billing with The Bard, Ciccarelli says the discovery was that The Bard collaborated with Kyd and wrote 40 percent of the play, while Kyd wrote 60%. This discovery came about through computer software designed by Sir Brian Vickers, a University of London professor to weed out plagiarizing college students.
Thomas was a guy who had a hit in London a few years earlier than Shakespeare,” Ciccarelli explains. “He was on par with Christopher Marlowe. And when Edward III was first published, there was no author assigned to it. There’s no external reference that both Shakespeare and Kid had written it, only through analysis of the text. It has been compared to Kyd’s and Shakespeare’s body-of-work. Researchers look for an author’s writing fingerprint; writers ten to use words a certain way that gives them their ‘voice’. Of the writers who could have written Edward III, Thomas Kyd was the best match.”
Things heat up in Edward III when King Edward,
(Ben Forer) kisses the Countess of Salisbury (Rachel Matusewicz)
Ciccarelli likes to find obscure and rarely performed Shakespeare for Hudson Shakespeare’s repertoire. And he prefers casting actors who can be adaptable when performing outdoors.
“Our actors are either musical theater-based or from improv troupes,” Ciccarelli says. “People who are good at improv and make bold choices; that adds a lot to the liveliness of the productions. We prefer actors who are flexible and can roll with things.”
If you go
Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2
Celebrating 25 years of Free Shakespeare in the Park, Aug 9027
Thurs, Aug. 18, 7 pm
Hamilton Park Gazebo, JC
Halloween Library Tour, Oct 15-30
Tales of Edgar Allan Poe
Winner of New Works Competition, Nov 10-13
WRONG NUMBER by Nedra Pezold Roberts
For more info: www.hudsonshakespeare.com