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Aug 7, 2018 3:44 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Free Shakespeare In Agawam Park Returns August 24 And 25

Hip to Hip Theatre Company will perform Shakespeare's
Aug 13, 2018 11:18 AM

Shakespeare in the Park, performed by Hip to Hip Theatre Company, will return for its 11th season at Agawam Park in Southampton Village this month with productions of “King Lear” on Friday, August 24, and “All’s Well That Ends Well” on Saturday, August 25.

The New York City-based nonprofit theater company was founded in Queens in 2007 by husband and wife Jason Marr and Joy Marr with the goal of producing free, professional productions of classic plays in public spaces for all to enjoy. The troupe’s free Shakespeare in the Park program was developed to bring theater to underprivileged communities in New York City.

“Performing in casual settings like public parks makes theater, and Shakespeare, more accessible and vital,” Mr. Marr said. “By its very nature, theater art serves a public good—it gives people a reason to come together as a community and share in something positive and enriching.”

The outdoor setting is a fitting venue for Shakespeare plays, Mr. Marr said, as this is how they were authentically enjoyed in the 17th century. “We are doing the plays as many in Shakespeare’s own time would have experienced them—in the open air,” he explained. “In a theater, you can turn the lights down on the audience and the lights up on the performers to concentrate the audience’s attention and to allow the performers to concentrate their attention on the world of the play. In the outdoors, the performers and the audience have a much more fluid relationship.”

Mr. Marr said that one of his long-term goals for the company is to produce all of Shakespeare’s plays, so every year the selection is different.

“Our process for picking the plays each year is like most other aspects of the theater—collaborative,” he said. “This year we ended up picking two plays we haven’t yet produced, and that balance and complement each other. ‘King Lear’ and ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ make a wonderful thematic pairing, centering on fairy tale-like battles between young and old, good and evil, and rich and poor.”

All productions are trimmed down to a running time of 105 minutes, a process that is a group effort between the director, the dramaturge and Mr. and Ms. Marr.

“We approach it with reverence, and with due care to not alter the story as written,” he explained. “We try to get it down to its essentials without killing the poetry.”

Mr. Marr added that maintaining most of the original text is a priority during the abridgment process. “We believe the language is the most accessible when it is spoken with forward momentum; Shakespeare writes in long arcs of thought, and we push the actors to speak in long arcs of thought,” he said. “I like to say we are for lovers of Shakespeare and for those experiencing Shakespeare for the first time.”

The company will also offer its children’s workshop, “Kids & The Classics,” at 7 p.m. before each performance for children ages 5 to 12. The company hosts these workshops to introduce children to the theater at a young age, and to help them better engage with what they see on stage during the performance.

“We didn’t want to gear our productions toward children, but rather tune the children into certain aspects of the productions and performance,” Mr. Marr explained. “It gives children a chance to interact with the text by previewing the story, creating links between the text and their own lives through theater games and close reading of text. Handouts serve as a guide for children, and differentiate instruction for children of differing ages and abilities.”

The family-friendly productions will take place on the Agawam Park lawn in Southampton Village at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, August 24, and Saturday, August 25, and require no registration or tickets. Guests are invited to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic essentials. In the event of rain, the productions will be moved indoors to the Southampton Cultural Center at 25 Pond Lane, opposite the park. Call 718-729-8567 or visit hiptohip.org for more information.

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