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Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey Announces 2014 Season

Seven productions planned, including company's first performance of 'Much Ado About Nothing' in more than a decade.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Credit: Patch file
The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Credit: Patch file

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey has announced its 2014 season.

The roster includes seven productions over the course of the season, which runs from May through December: "The Tempest," "Henry VIII" and "Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare, "The Devil’s Disciple" by George Bernard Shaw, "The Alchemist" by Ben Jonson, "Wittenberg" by David Davalos, and, on the outdoor stage, "The Learned Ladies" by Molière.

The shows are performed on the theater's Main Stage at the F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre on the campus of Drew University in Madison, and one summer production is performed on the popular Outdoor Stage, the Greek amphitheater on the campus of The College of Saint Elizabeth.

"The ambitious lineup demonstrates the Theatre’s unwavering dedication to all classic literature, from the familiar to the forgotten, the recognizable to the rediscovered, with works by Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Ben Jonson, Molière, and contemporary playwright David Davalos," the theater said in a news release.

The season begins in late May and continues through December.

Here's a look at the season ahead provided by Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. 

The Season

The 2014 season kicks off with William Shakespeare’s "The Tempest," directed by Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte. “This was the first show that I directed at this Theatre in 1991, and this June I am excited to once again explore the play with a new vision.” Prestigious company veteran Sherman Howard, an actor Monte describes as “a force of nature in himself,” will portray Prospero, the powerful magician who rules over his enchanted island home. "The Tempest" will begin performances on May 28.

This summer, the Shakespeare Theatre’s Outdoor Stage will ring with laughter as the “It Girls” of the 17th century (who bear a hilarious and uncanny resemblance to the “It Girls” of the 21st century) frolic and flirt in Molière’s comedic delight "The Learned Ladies." Directed by Brian B. Crowe, who created the last season’s holiday masterpiece "Pericles," "The Learned Ladies" will open June 18 at the beautiful, family-friendly amphitheatre on the campus of the College of St. Elizabeth.

Just in time for Independence Day and the celebration of New Jersey’s 350th anniversary, company veteran Paul Mullins will direct George Bernard Shaw’s only play about America — "The Devil’s Disciple." Set in the revolutionary tumult of Colonial America in 1777, an unlikely anti-hero makes the ultimate sacrifice, causing Loyalists and patriots alike to question the true meaning of honor. "The Devil’s Disciple" will open July 2.

Next on the Main Stage, Monte will direct her adaptation of the side-splitting but rarely-produced Ben Jonson masterpiece "The Alchemist." The rowdy, bawdy comedy about con men in 1610 demonstrates how little has changed about greed or gullibility in the affairs of mankind. Mr. Jonson’s astute portrayal of three tricky gullers and the parade of outrageous characters they gull exemplifies the satirical wit of one of Shakespeare’s greatest contemporaries. "The Alchemist" will begin Aug. 6.

The Shakespeare Theatre will produce the New Jersey premiere of "Wittenberg," written by actor-turned-playwright David Davalos and directed by Joseph Discher. Davalos’s play imagines a semester at Wittenberg University and features an unusual quartet—Doctor Faustus, Martin Luther, Helen of Troy, and a young Hamlet.  Together, the characters pose queries and arguments about faith, existence, and even, tennis. When the work premiered at the Arden Theatre Company in 2008, Davalos wrote, “I was always intrigued by imaginary meetings between historical figures…how they might interact and clash in the period leading up to the stories that we already know of them.” Shakespeare Theatre audiences responded enthusiastically to the witty contemporary classic-inspired piece, which was given a staged reading in the company’s Lend Us Your Ears series. "Wittenberg" opens Sept. 10.

Next, the Theatre will present the Bard’s rarely-produced final work, "Henry VIII." “I have always maintained that if a director would be willing to create a smart and very stream-lined version, then the many brilliant aspects of the play could shine more brightly,” Monte said. Longtime company director Paul Mullins took on the challenge;  he will return in the fall to direct this historical epic about the young King Henry and the first two of his six wives. "Henry VIII" will open Oct. 15.

The 2014 season concludes with the of Shakespeare’s delightful comedy "Much Ado About Nothing," which has not been seen at the Theatre in over a decade. Renowned actor and director Scott Wentworth, who recently met with tremendous acclaim for his portrayals of Shylock and Tevye at the Stratford Festival, will appear at the Shakespeare Theatre for the first time since 2005.  He will not only direct the production, but will also portray Benedick opposite his real-life wife Marion Adler, who appeared in the 2013 production of "Our Town." Wentworth’s vision sets the play post-World War II, à la “White Christmas,” perfect for the holiday season. "Much Ado About Nothing" will begin Dec. 3.

Special Events

Special events also are planned for the 2014 Season.   Back by popular demand are Something Wicked This Way Comes and Something Merry This Way Comes.  Titled from a line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Something Wicked This Way Comes features esteemed actors from The Shakespeare Theatre company as well as guest artists presenting a 90-minute collage of dramatic readings from the classic canon of the macabre.  This one-night-only event will be held Oct. 27.  

Hearkening back to a time when families read to each other, "Something Merry This Way Comes" is a cornucopia of sparkling and inspiring holiday tales, songs, and poems read by members of The Shakespeare Theatre’s company of actors.  "Something Merry This Way Comes" is appropriate for all ages, and provides a lovely antidote to thec ommercial glitz that inundates our lives each year at holiday time.  Something Merry This Way Comes will be held on Dec. 15.

Lend Us Your Ears, the Theatre’s acclaimed play reading series, returns for the 2014 season and gives patrons the opportunity to join The Shakespeare Theatre’s directors, actors and artistic staff in exploring diverse and exciting plays.  These script-in-hand readings feature members of The Shakespeare Theatre’s esteemed company of actors as well as prestigious guest artists.  Reading titles will soon be announced. 

For more information call the Box Office at 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org.

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