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Shakespeare Theatre's 50th Season to Feature Comedy, Musicals

Rare Henry IV, Oliver Twist, Man of Lamancha on playbill.

The today announced its 2012 season, the 50th Anniversary season of the state’s largest professional theatre dedicated to Shakespeare and other classics, and the longest-running Shakespeare Theatre on the East Coast. 

Founded in 1963 in Cape May by Paul Barry and Philip Dorian as the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, the company was invited to take up residence at Drew University in 1972.  2012 also marks the 40th Anniversary of the Theatre’s residency in Madison.

"From the founding of “The New Jersey Shakespeare Festival” in Cape May, to the move to in 1972, to my first season in 1991, to the opening of the new F.M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre in 1998, and now to our 50th Anniversary, our audiences have applauded, cheered, and supported this venerable institution every step of the way, and for that we are immensely proud and grateful,” said Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte, in a release.

The 2012 season marks Monte’s 22nd as artistic director of the Theatre. 

The season begins with William Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One. Not seen on The Shakespeare Theatre stage in two decades, this is one of Shakespeare’s most popular history plays, introducing Prince Hal and the larger-than-life Sir John Falstaff at the height of his rowdy power. Associate Artistic Director Joseph Discher (To Kill A Mockingbird) will direct this season-=opener where fact and fiction blend seamlessly under Shakespeare’s sure hand as he paints the portrait of a young prince’s reformation and ascent to manhood. Henry IV, Part One begins performances on May 30 and continues through June 24.

Next is a playfully wicked, new adaptation of Pierre Corneille’s French farce The Liar. This hilarious romp about the hijinks of six young Parisian lovers will run from July 4-29. The Liar will be directed by long-time company member Paul Mullins (Noises Off, Accidental Death of an Anarchist).

The summer continues with Monte directing Shakespeare’s dark comedy Measure for Measure. This age-old tale of scandal, abuse of power and what happens when repression and profligacy get equally out of balance will begin performances on August 8 and continue through August 26. 

For its annual Outdoor Stage production at the Greek amphitheater at the College of St. Elizabeth in Morris Township, The Shakespeare Theatre will present Shakespeare’s raucous slapstick The Comedy of Errors. Two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, colorful characters and a madcap chase sequence (to rival all chase sequences!) conspire to make this caper a thrill for children and adults of all ages! This outdoor production will be directed by Shakespeare Theatre veteran Jason King Jones (The Complete Work of William Shakespeare (abridged)). The Comedy of Errors will run June 20-July 29. 

To launch the Fall portion of the season, director Brian B. Crowe will set his imagination in motion for Neil Bartlett’s highly-praised adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Filled with music, familiar characters and the visceral landscape of Victorian England’s underworld, this is a dynamic theatrical vision of Dickens’ classic, and a wonderful offering for people of all ages. Oliver Twist runs September 12-October 7.

Not since 2004 has The Shakespeare Theatre produced a musical but, to celebrate its 50th Anniversary Season, the Theatre announced it will present the award-winning musical Man of La Mancha, based on Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Dale Wasserman with lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. Monte will direct with Broadway veteran and longtime Shakespeare Theatre company member Robert Cuccioli in the iconic role of Don Quixote. Man of La Mancha will begin performances on October 17 and continue through November 18.

The Theatre’s 50th Anniversary Season will close with the rarely-seen classic gem Trelawny of the Wells by Arthur Wing Pinero. This fabulous romantic comedy about life in the theater in England at the turn of the 19th Century offers a fitting tribute to the thousands of artists who have graced the stages of the Shakespeare Theatre over the past 50 years. Directed by Monte, Trelawny of the Wells runs December 5-30.  

A series of special events is also planned for the 2012 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 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 on October 29.  

Harking 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 simple and pure antidote to the commercial glitz that inundates our lives each year as we near the holidays.  Something Merry This Way Comes will be held on December 10.

Lend Us Your Ears, the Theatre’s acclaimed play reading series, returns for the 2012 season and provides 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.  Kicking off the series is David Blixt’s Eve of Ides which imagines Caesar and Brutus on the night before Caesar’s assassination debating politics, family, history, and the future. The Eve of Ides reading will take place on the actual eve of the Ides of March, March 14 at 7 p.m. Additional readings will soon be announced. 

To purchase tickets and for more information, call 973-408-5600 or visit www.ShakespeareNJ.org

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