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The Shakespear​e Theatre Presents Free Picnic Series

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will present its annual free Picnic Series, featuring performances by The Theatre’s prestigious touring troupe, the Next Stage Ensemble, on July 16 and August 6.  Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost will be presented on Saturday, July 16, at 5:30 p.m. and Molière’s Tartuffe will be at 5:30 pm on Saturday, August 6.  Picnic Series performances are held on the lawn outside the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road) in Madison.  For more information, visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org or call 973-408-5600.  Performances of The Picnic Series are free of charge and patrons are invited to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. In the event of rain, the performance will be held in an indoor venue.

The Next Stage Ensemble’s will present a one-hour version of Love’s Labor’s Lost by William Shakespeare on Saturday, July 16 at 5:30 pm. Shakespeare’s delightful coming-of-age comedy is a witty and hilarious ode to youthful aspirations, infatuations and follies.  The young King of Navarre, and his three loyal friends, decide to dedicate themselves to the “noble pursuit of knowledge” for three full years, locking themselves away from all distraction -- especially women.  Their ambitious “ivory tower” is soon shaken, with the arrival of the lovely Princess of France and her three gamesome ladies-in-waiting.  Filled with dazzling wordplay, strong comic characters and a few unexpected twists, Love’s Labor’s Lost not only charms, but also touches the heartstrings of young and old alike.  Director Abigail Isaac (“As You Like It” tour, 2010) returns with an exciting new staging of this delicious Shakespeare confection.

The next performance for the Picnic Series will be a one-hour production of Molière’s comedy, Tartuffe on Saturday, August 6 at 5:30 pm.  Although banned by France’s religious leaders after its first showing, Molière’s biting and witty comic masterpiece quickly became a runaway hit and has remained so since its public reopening in 1669.  When Orgon, a gullible and wealthy family man, invites the seemingly pious Tartuffe to stay at his home, he is convinced that he has joined a noble cause.  Despite the warnings of his family and friends, Orgon holds his friend in the highest regard and showers him with gifts and money and even the offer of his daughter’s hand in marriage.  The family soon lays traps to expose the true nature of the mysterious stranger.  Will their efforts be too late?  Will anything convince Orgon that Tartuffe is not all that he seems to be?  Will harmony ever be restored in the Orgon household?  Just wait and see!  Directed by Mike Donahue, Tartuffe remains a deliciously scathing attack on hypocrisy, false piety, hollow morality and gullibility; delighting and taunting as effectively now as when it was first penned.

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The Next Stage Ensemble was created to cultivate the work of early career actors and provide an opportunity for them to perform using ensemble-based methods. Ten actors from across the nation were selected to participate in this year’s troupe.  In addition to The Picnic Series, the Next Stage Ensemble will give approximately 50 performances throughout New Jersey. While rehearsing and touring two productions, the actors receive training in intensive master classes with highly acclaimed acting instructors. For the first five weeks of the program, the actors work with professionals from all over the nation in order to prepare them for the tour. The productions will tour to about 30 venues across the state, ranging from retirement homes to community centers. In addition to touring, the actors will also understudy roles in The Shakespeare Theatre’s main stage productions.

The Shakespeare Theatre’s 2011 Season, which began in June, includes five additional Main Stage plays and one long run show at the popular Outdoor Stage. 

Currently, The Shakespeare Theatre’s annual Outdoor Stage production at the Greek amphitheater at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township features the world’s most popular comedy – Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Performances continue through July 31. This newly conceived, exuberant, 90-minute production is perfect for children and families of all ages and  celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Outdoor Stage in jubilant style.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream includes new 4:30 pm twilight performances on select Saturdays and Sundays in addition to 8:15 pm performances Tuesdays through Sundays.  Our Outdoor Stage productions have become a perennial favorite for families of all ages, and a perfect opportunity to see Shakespeare under-the-stars!   A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through July 31 at the outdoor amphitheatre on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth. 

Back on the Main Stage is William Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens.  This taut 90 minute version of Shakespeare’s rarely-produced play is an extraordinary explosion of imaginative staging and resonant themes.  Resident director Brian Crowe mixes up a sublime blend of Grand Guignol, Vaudeville, and Brechtian theatricality in his inventive adaptation.  Timon of Athens runs through July 24. 

Dario Fo’s brilliantly funny, irreverent political farce, The Accidental Death of An Anarchist, embodies the modern Fo-brand of commedia theatre that has helped define him as a playwright of the people. The Nobel Prize Committee called him a writer “who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden.” Inspired by a real-life event involving a man who “fell” from the window of a police station, Fo has invented an outrageously sly and caustic comedy filled with physical and linguistic acrobatics.   Accidental Death of An Anarchist begins performances on August 3 and continues through August 28. 

William Shakespeare’s Othello is next.  Not seen on The Shakespeare Theatre stage since 2003, this tale of love, jealousy, and betrayal remains as compelling today as when it first exploded onto the stage in 1604.  Often described as Shakespeare’s most perfect play, the epic downfall of the Moor of Venice and his beautiful Desdemona at the hands of the uber-villain Iago, remains one of the world’s most heartbreaking tales.  Othello runs September 7 through October 2. 

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee and adapted by Christopher Sergel, is next and features an extended 6-week run.  The characters of Atticus Finch, Scout, and Boo Radley have become iconic figures in the American consciousness and conscience.  Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel is considered one of the most important works of the 20th century, and it is a must for every new generation.  The story’s enduring spell stems in part from the juxtaposition of the simple, yet astute innocence of a child’s point of view in the face of terrible and terribly complex adult problems and biases.  The fundamental lessons about compassion, integrity, and courage are breath-taking and life-changing.  To Kill A Mockingbird will run from October 12 through November 15.   To Kill a Mockingbird is made possible in part by a generous grant from The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation. 

To celebrate the Holiday Season, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will present Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol adapted for the stage by Neil Bartlett.  Bartlett’s unique and inventive adaption is ingenious in its approach to this timeless holiday tale, and profoundly captures the true essence of the original novel.  With a cast of nine actors playing more than 50 roles, this production features a new visual landscape which conjures up this delightful, funny, haunted and haunting morality tale that, in the end is always beautifully touching.   A Christmas Carol begins performances on December 1 and continues through January 1. 

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Main Stage, the 308-seat F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, is conveniently located in Madison at 36 Madison Avenue (Route 124) at Lancaster Road (on the Drew University campus), just minutes from routes 287, 78 and 10. Parking is free. 

The F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre is barrier free with access into the Theatre via a ramp and elevator access to all floors.   Wheelchair seating and transfer seating is available.  Braille and large print programs are available.   Infrared listening devices are available free of charge.  Some performances are audio described.  Contact the theatre for more information.   The Outdoor Stage is located on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth, 2 Convent Road in Morris Township.   For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

The acclaimed Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is an independent, professional theatre company located on the Drew University campus. One of the leading Shakespeare theatres in the nation, serving 100,000 adults and children annually, it is New Jersey’s only professional theatre company dedicated solely to Shakespeare’s canon and other world classics. Through its distinguished productions and education programs, the company strives to illuminate the universal and lasting relevance of the classics for contemporary audiences.

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