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Shakespeare's Works Coming to Parvin State Park
By Peter Proko
There's a good chance that when you hear the phrase "Shakespeare-in- the-park," you think of Central Park in New York City and not Parvin State Park in Pittsgrove. That is until now.
The Hudson Shakespeare Co. of Jersey City will bring the literary works to life on two Saturdays this month at the Salem County park. The shows are part of a pilot program by the group to gauge the interest of outdoor theater in South Jersey.
"We're looking to take out stuff out to an interesting place and expand our programs into new communities and new venues," said Artistic Director Jon Ciccarelli.
The group has been in operation since 1992 and in the beginning was primarily based out of its Jersey City home base. After producing four productions every summer it gained the interest of surrounding areas looking for a little bit of outdoor entertainment.
"Seeing live theater in a park is an awesome thing - always a crowd pleaser," said Ciccarelli
"It's a completely different experience from being inside. The outdoor performances are more of a Fourth of July atmosphere.
"A lot of times we have passers by riding their bike through the park and they stop an sit and wind up staying for the whole thing."
Parvin State Park contacted the group through its web site after hearing about its work. The two formed a relationship and the result will be a performance of "Richard III" on Saturday and "Love's Labour's Lost" on Aug 27. Of course putting on four productions in several different venues every summer can get a little demanding on the cast and crew but Ciccarelli says they have a certain comfort zone.
"Our directors have been actors with us or worked in some capacity with our group, so they know the demands of the particular shows," he said.
Mixing things up between traditional and non-traditional settings is just a way for the group to "shake things up" according to Ciccarelli. By making the works more accessible, the group has picked up unlikely fans.
We've had 3-year-olds sitting through some of the darkest tragedies and at the end they want autographs," said Ciccarelli
Ciccarelli is confident that the concept will catch on in South Jersey because of the strong local ties to the arts. He also sees an allure that is too strong to ignore.
"Essentially, it's a good evening out with some culture and swordplay," he said.