The joys of June are myriad: time off from school, swimming, picnics and baseball, strawberry-picking and shortcake-baking, long lazy afternoons in a hammock with a good book. And for some, the most eagerly anticipated is the return of outdoor Shakespeare performances. It’s time to head on down to Boscobel, drink in the sunset over the Hudson Highlands’ most iconic viewshed and then settle in for an evening’s wallow in luscious language and wonderful acting.
In recent years, the three main events in the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF)’s rotating summerlong repertory have consisted of two actual Shakespeare works and one outlier classifiable in some way as a “classic,” supplemented by shorter runs – usually towards summer’s end – of shows that are less familiar, a little riskier. This year, as new artistic director Davis McCallum settles in, the lineup will be somewhat different: Three full Shakespeare productions will run all summer; the non-Bardian classic, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, will run from September 2 to 5 only; and So Please You, a Shakespeare-inspired work by Zachary Fine, will be performed by the students in the HVSF Conservatory Company on four dates in August.
The latter piece takes off from Fine’s musings about Dennis, a servant character who has only two lines in As You Like It; so it should come as no great surprise that one of the dishes on the main menu this year will be served in the magical Forest of Arden. Gaye Taylor Upchurch, who directed Kurt Rhoads in the one-man play An Iliad for HVSF last year, returns this summer to helm As You Like It. One of the Bard’s many comedies that involve cross-dressing, this production takes it a step further by casting Maria-Christina Oliveras in the usually-male role of Jaques, who gets to deliver the play’s most celebrated speech, the “seven ages” soliloquy. Yes, actresses everywhere, you can aspire to be the one to inform audiences that “All the world’s a stage”!
Also in rotation for summer 2016 will be the famously accursed “Scottish play,” entirely performed by a three-woman cast – Oliveras, Stacey Yen and the ever-amazing Nance Williamson – under the direction of Lee Sunday Evans. The third Shakespeare work will be the challenging, underperformed “problem play” Measure for Measure, whose eternally topical themes about outwardly pious, secretly corrupt political hypocrites always seem even more resonant in an election year. Mingling drama with dark comedy, it’s one of only two plays in which Shakespeare employed the notorious Shakespearean “bed trick.” McCallum himself directs this one.
The HVSF season gets underway with previews of As You Like It beginning on June 7, Macbeth on June 8 and Measure for Measure on June 9. Ticket prices vary throughout the season depending on date, seat location, special events and age categories (small children and members of the military get the best deals). Rest assured that whatever performance fits your schedule, the price will be worth it.
Shows begin at 7:30 p.m., with the grounds opening for picnicking (highly recommended!) at 5:30 p.m. Boscobel House and Gardens are located at 1601 Route 9D in Garrison. To order tickets or for more information, call the box office at (845) 265-9575 or visit https://hvshakespeare.org.