Showing posts with label Delaware Shakespeare Festival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Delaware Shakespeare Festival. Show all posts

Sunday, July 17, 2022

DelShakes' Festival Roars Back into Rockwood with "The Tempest"

By Mike Logothetis
Theater reviewer Mike Logothetis grew up in North Wilmington, performing in school and local theater productions. He lives in Newark, but you can find him wherever the arts are good.

Stephano tugs at a covered Trinculo as Caliban looks on. Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, Delaware Shakespeare’s revered Summer Festival is back at historic Rockwood Park in Wilmington with a spirited production of The Tempest. Producing Artistic Director David Stradley points out that the play is “...about what happens when you encounter chaos. And that certainly is apt. We’ve all been through quite a tempest in the last few years.” Agreed.

But what happens on stage is neither chaos nor merely a tale to “cure deafness.” The classic story centered on vengeance is put together quite nicely with a flowing style that is paced to perfection.

Also the show’s director, Stradley states: “The play asks us to consider what we do when someone has wronged us and also how we respond when we have wronged someone else. These are powerful questions to consider as a community.”

The Tempest is a tale of forgiveness and family. The show begins with the titular storm that Prospero conjures to bring his seafaring enemies to the island where he lives. The sorcerer and former Duke of Milan was usurped by his treacherous brother, Antonio, who took his dukedom with help from the Queen of Naples. After escaping by boat with his infant daughter Miranda, Prospero plots his revenge and uses his magical powers to keep the island’s only inhabitant (Caliban) as a slave and a local spirit (Ariel) as a servant. He torments the shipwreck survivors by separating them into groups which he can manipulate as he fancies. 

But now that his enemies are within reach, will Prospero exact his long-awaited revenge? Can forgiveness be found in recognizing the blossoming love between Miranda and the Prince of Naples (Ferdinand)? And, in the end, what should become of Ariel and Caliban?

Stradley emphasizes: “Everybody [on the island] either has either done something wrong or had something wrong done to them, and they’re all on this journey about how to move forward together as a community. That’s also something that we’re wrestling with maybe more now than we were — when things go wrong, how we reconnect and move forward together.”

Ariel threatens Queen Alonsa, Sebastian, and Antonio.
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Prospero is played by Jolie Garrett, who makes his DelShakes debut this summer. Garrett is able to successfully move from moments of serenity to those of anger convincingly, effectively showing Prospero’s mood swings and on-edge personality.

Lexi Thammavong is captivating as the fairy Ariel, who does Prospero’s bidding in hopes of one day earning her freedom from servitude. Thammavong is lithe and spritely – flitting between the disparate groups to cause mayhem or mend rifts.

The physical Gerrad Alex Taylor brought empathy to the “monster” Caliban. The dehumanized character only wants what’s rightly his, but is never fully acquitted the dignity he deserves. Only the drunkards Stephano and Trinculo – exceptionally played by Rachel O’Hanlon-Rodriguez and Jack O’Neill – give Caliban some modicum of respect. Plus, they delivered all the best jokes from their pieces of the script. 

The stage is a multi-angled space with a round flat center, which allows for dynamic action for all of the audience seated around it. Movements are easily followed and the innovative lighting set the various moods well.

If Shakespeare intimidates you, there is a pre-show orientation. Forty minutes prior to curtain, two actors from the production offer insight of the play. Plus, several of the actors out on an engaging comedic pre-show utilizing themes from The Tempest.

The Summer Festival will be employing “Pay-What-You-Decide” ticket pricing this year. The three price options are $10, $20, or $30. There is no student or group pricing in 2022. Children age 5 and under are free. Every Sunday is “Family Night,” with special activities before the performance and free admission for children 12 and under when accompanied by a paying adult. 

To buy tickets, go to or purchase at the door. Curtain is at 7:30pm from Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 6:00pm on Sundays. Gates open at 6:15pm for pre-show entertainment and picnics Wednesday through Saturday and at 4:45pm on Sundays. The festival concludes its run on July 31.

Attendees are invited to bring their own chairs, blankets, and picnic baskets to Rockwood Park. Alcoholic beverages are allowed on the grounds for those of legal age. If you have a particularly lush spread, let the staff know and be entered to win the Janssen’s Market Picnic Contest. DelShakes will take a picture of your picnic and post it on social media with other entries each week. At the end of the run, a favorite picnic will be selected as champion. The winner will receive a gift certificate to Janssens’ Market, tickets to the 2023 Summer Festival, and all-important bragging rights.

A limited number of reserved lawn chairs are available at each performance. These “Saved Seats” are set up in premium locations in the first row of the “lawn chairs” section, behind blankets and low-backed beach chairs. Reservations must be made in advance and cost $42.

The Delaware Shakespeare VIP Tent provides a place for groups of 10 or more to gather with clients, colleagues, and friends before the show. VIP Tent packages can be customized to include catered picnics, wine, reserved seats, and more.

Concessions tents will feature picnic-appropriate sandwiches and snacks from Janssen’s Market as well as soft drinks, candy, Delaware Shakespeare t-shirts, wine from Swigg, and beer…specialty beer.

New sponsor Stitch House & Brewery has crafted a Belgian Saison named “Strange Bedfellows” specifically for the Summer Festival. (The beer is named after Trinculo’s line in Act 2: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”) Enjoy a pint at the show! Note: Strange Bedfellows is now on tap at Stitch House, where $1 from every sale will go to DelShakes.

The 2022 Delaware Shakespeare season will include two full productions – the current Summer Festival (The Tempest from July 15-31) and a fall Community Tour (a bilingual musical adaptation of Twelfth Night). The dates for the Community Tour are yet to be determined.

As an outdoor event, no masks or vaccine status will be required for audience members. Policies may change based on public health conditions at the time of the event. DelShakes artists will be fully vaccinated and engaged in testing protocols.

Don’t be a hater (see Prospero) and go experience the show. Remember: “The rarer action is in virtue than in vengeance."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Once More unto DelShakes, Dear Friends...for Henry V

L-R: Carlo Campbell as Exeter, Emilie Krause as Henry,
Savannah Jackson as Ely and Guillermo Alonso as Canterbury.
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
By Mike Logothetis

In his time, William Shakespeare became the toast of London theater circles by pleasing critics and the masses with popular plays which contained exceptional turns of phrases. Centuries later, his words remain steeped in the English lexicon. But did you know The Bard was also a motivational speaker? Actually, he wasn’t…but he wrote some extremely stirring speeches.

In America, we have “Give me liberty, or give me death!” (Patrick Henry) and “Let’s win one for the Gipper” (Knute Rockne). These are powerful words from our history which moved politicians and collegiate football players to greatness.

In Henry V, Shakespeare wrote not just one, but three superb speeches which continue to stir passion and urge listeners to action – sometimes beyond their apparent means and abilities.

“O ceremony, show me but thy worth!” (Act IV, Scene I)

But the power of these speeches and other lines of script mean little without context and delivery. The 15th annual Delaware Shakespeare production of Henry V provides its audience with those parameters of success (plus wine!). Director Jessica Bedford has assembled an excellent cast of nobles, soldiers, and other players to bring the 16th century show about the trials of leadership to life for a contemporary audience.

The most notable is the role of the titular king, played with fiery depth by Emilie Krause. Yes, the king is really a queen of the stage in this gender-blind production. Because the words are so strong and the direction so polished, you don’t dwell on “Harry” being played by a woman. (You shouldn’t anyway.) Krause wrestles with decisions, lashes out at traitors, fraternizes with common soldiers, and courts a French princess like any good Shakespearean hero king would. She’s the foundation on which this lovely outdoor
L-R: Adam Altman as Fluellen
and Guillermo Alonso as MacMorris.
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
production sits.

Along with Krause, Leonard Kelly stands out playing three disparate roles to perfection: Bardolph, Erpingham, and the King of France. Kelly’s ability to transition from the drunken common man in the trenches to a king trying to control his nobles, son, and armies against English invaders is impressive.

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” (Act III, Scene I)

If you are unfamiliar with the play, the story focuses on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. Characters on both sides scheme for power, jostle for political and economic position, and steal for profit. The scene where Henry confronts those who conspire to murder him is a powerful one. The audience can feel the walls closing in on those who wish to depose their king.

Don’t be frightened of Shakespeare’s famous wordplay – the actors convey more than their scripted lines with their actions and reactions to events taking place on stage. The pacing is tight and the plot is clear to follow. Even if you miss some nuance due to language, you can follow the story and empathize with the heavy situations King Henry must weigh in his mind.

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” (Act IV, Scene III)

The raised circular stage has four entrance and exit passages which makes the audience feel part of the action, especially during the climactic battle. This intimacy also allows those delicate lines delivered with passion or humor or anger or pathos to draw you closer to identifying with certain characters and circumstances. It is an ideal venue and setting to enjoy Shakespeare’s work. (It's also beautiful when you settle into a chair and soak it all in.)

Only three actors play single roles and the well-drilled cast of Guillermo Alonso, Adam Altman, Nathan Bunyon, Carlo Campbell, Macy Jae Davis, Kristin Devine, Nico Galloway, Savannah Jackson, Annette Kaplafka, Marcellus McQueen, Adam Pierce Montgomery, David Pica, and Cristina Riegel are a worthy Shakespearean troupe.

Attending performances outside in the round (under the stars!) at Rockwood Mansion is a delight that longtime area theater-lovers and burgeoning fans should make plans to experience. Henry V runs from July 14-30 with gates opening early for pre-show entertainment and picnics. For the first time, bottles of wine will be available for purchase this year, courtesy of Swigg. Concessions featuring foods from Janssen’s Market will also be on sale. Patrons are encouraged to bring picnicking items plus lawn chairs and blankets to the park for the performances.

General admission is $18 with discounted tickets for seniors and active military ($16) as well as students ($14). Children age 5 and under are free and each Sunday is Family Night. Curtain is at 7:30 from Wednesdays through Saturdays and at 6 on Sundays.

The 2017 Delaware Shakespeare season will include two full productions – the current Summer Festival (Henry V) and a fall Community Tour (As You Like It) from October 25 through November 9. There will also be three ticketed performances on November 10-12 at OperaDelaware Studios.

“The game's afoot: Follow your spirit” (Act III, Scene I)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DelShakes' Pericles on Tour --- A Perfect Choice

Jamal Douglas (Pericles/Ensemble) and 
Bi Jean Ngo (Thaisa/Ensemble) perform at the
Achievement Center of the Wilmington HOPE Commission. 
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
By Christine Facciolo

Pity the director that has to stage a production of Shakespeare’s Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Dramaturgically speaking, it’s a train wreck. In fact, scholars agree that the play was largely written not by the Bard but by a collaborator — and a hack at that. The plot is a meandering one that includes an incestuous king, two tempests at sea, marauding pirates, a maiden sold into a bordello and a reunion between said maiden and the father who thought her long dead. And if that’s not enough, there’s also a reunion between that self-same father and the wife he also thought long dead. Little wonder it’s so rarely performed.

But for David Stradley, it was the perfect choice. Stradley is producing artistic director of the Delaware Shakespeare Festival, which is smack-dab in the middle of a statewide community tour that has already taken it to some pretty unconventional venues, including the Ferris School for Boys and the Sunday Breakfast Mission in Wilmington as well as the Stockley Center in Georgetown. The company is also slated to perform at the Delaware Psychiatric Center and the Baylor Women’s Correctional Institute.

It’s all about life’s journey and how we cope with everything life throws at us, Stradley told the audience prior to Sunday’s matinee performance at the Delaware History Museum in downtown Wilmington. Those who persevere will, like some of the characters in the play, reap the benefits. He noted how well that theme resonated with some of the at-risk populations the company has visited.

The plot goes like this: Pericles must flee for his life from the murderous King Antiochus. After being shipwrecked, Pericles finds his true love, the beautiful Princess Thaisa, who isn’t long for this life — or is she? The action spans fourteen years, but the ensemble, as omniscient narrator, keeps us abreast of Pericles’ hectic escapades throughout the Eastern Mediterranean.

L-R: Trevor Fayle (Lysimachus/Ensemble), 
Jamal Douglas (Pericles/Ensemble), Danielle Leneé 
(Helicanus/Ensemble, in background), 
J Hernandez (Cleon/Ensemble), 
Corinna Burns (Dionyza/Ensemble). 
Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Stradley tackles this omnishambles of a play with a cheeky production that features wit and zest. Ashley SK Davis supplies an amazing fight scene executed with precision by this acrobatic ensemble. David Meyer provides a minimalist set that supports the action but is portable and readily adaptable to the venue. Musician/composer Joe Trainer effectively set the mood, creating tension and underscoring the theme. Cast member Ruby Wolf’s violin provides a very pleasant, if unexpected, addition.

The performers are first-rate. Bi Jean Ngo shows versatility playing an oily assassin and the noble and sublime Princess Thaisa. Danielle Lenee imbues Helicanus with a quiet and stately grace. Ruby Wolf imparts a common-sense wisdom to the pluperfect Marina. Corinna Burns and J Hernandez are all grace and gratitude as Dionyza and Cleon which contrasts wonderfully with their turns as the Pandar and Bawd for which Hernandez dons an appropriately godawful red wig. Jamal Douglas as the titular hero must deliver a more restrained performance but does occasionally cash in on the silliness with revealing facial gestures.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre may not be a perfect piece of theater, but it’s good entertainment and it does deliver an important message of perseverance to anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of one of life’s curve balls. And that’s most of us.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

DelShakes' The Comedy of Errors Delivers Madcap Fun Under the Stars

By Guest Blogger, Ken Grant
The Comedy of Errors stage at Rockwood Park. Photo by Alessandra Nicole.

Ken Grant has worked in Delaware media, politics and marketing for 25 years. He and his Lovely Bride enjoy Wilmington's arts and culture scene as much as they can. 

Before the Stooges and the Marx Brothers, there was The Comedy of Errors.

The play, one of William Shakespeare’s earlier works, is a madcap, slapstick, double mistaken-identity romp.

True confession: While driving to the opening night performance at the beautiful Rockwood Mansion, this reviewer asked his Lovely Bride to pull up the play synopsis on her smartphone and read it to him. Arguably, to offer a written synopsis of the play will lead to frustration and confusion for both writer and reader – The Comedy of Errors simply must be experienced.

And the experience with this cast and musicians under the direction of David Stradley is delightful, fun and surprising.

Luke Brahdt and Brendan Moser play the identical twins – both named Antipholus – separated at birth by shipwreck.
Chase Byrd and Sean Close play the identical twins – both named Dromio – separated at birth by shipwreck.

(L-R): Brian Reisman (Dromio of Ephesus), Luke Brahdt (Antipholus
of Ephesus), Abdul Sesay (Officer). Photo by Alessandra Nicole.
Go back and re-read those last two sentences, and you’ll see why a written synopsis can be confusing and frustrating.

[Quick side note]: If you are a high school English teacher who only has your students read Shakespeare’s plays, please stop. Allow the students to experience the power, comedy, drama, tension, fullness, beauty, grittiness and even the silliness of Shakespeare through a live performance or even a video – you will help to shape a better future for all of us. [End of side note.]

The performances by this cast are wonderfully over-the-top, the dialog is downright musical, and the choreography has all of the fun of slapstick with none of the pain.

Everything about this comedy supports the creativity and innovation that is associated with the Delaware Shakespeare Festival: a long runway for a stage with doors on wheels; colorful lighting, costuming that is at once colorful and useful (remember, two sets of twins – the costumes really help in keeping the whole thing straight); and a jazz trio – saxophone, bass, percussion – that perfectly sets and elevates the tone throughout the performance.

If you're ready for a lighthearted, fun, engaging evening, you'll want to get these tickets, pack your lawn chairs or picnic blankets and come out to Rockwood Mansion. Oh, and read the signs on the sidewalk on the way up; there’s some great information there that will make the show that much more enjoyable.

The Comedy of Errors runs for 13 performance this month, Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30pm with gates opening at 6:15pm for preshow entertainment and picnics. Sunday performances begin at 6:00pm (gates open at 4:45pm). No shows are scheduled for Monday or Tuesday nights, although Tuesday, July 26 is a rain date, if needed.

The fourth annual Janssen’s Market Picnic Contest – in which patrons bring their best spreads to compete for the coveted Picnic Contest trophy and bragging rights – will take place on Saturday, July 23. General admission to the festival is $18 (some of the most affordable live theater tickets around). Tickets are $16 for seniors (65+), and active military (and their families), with identification. Student tickets are $14. Children 5 and under are free at every performance.

Every Sunday is Family Night, with special activities for children 12 and under admitted free with a paid adult admission.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Bard Meets the Tomahawk Man

By Guest Blogger, JulieAnne Cross
JulieAnne is a Wilmington-area do-gooder, specializing in public relations, communications and events, with a focus on the dining industry. Her first arts job was in the opera industry two decades ago, and she famously states that her “only talent is pushing pencils.”

Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s annual “Shakespeare/Poe, Readings from the Dark Side” began its two-week run on October 16. The fourth annual event has expanded the series’ reach with a 10-show run, with each of the three distinct, historic locations Rockwood Mansion (Wilmington), Read House (New Castle) and the Stone Stable (Odessa)  set for a limited capacity of 30. I have attended past readings at Rockwood, and can attest that the Victorian setting creates a perfect mood for the gothic-themed selections, and no doubt the colonial settings do the same.

The selections for the hour-long reading included some works familiar to returning patrons, but the theme was newly expanded to include gothic literary royalty: Ann Radcliffe and Mary Shelley.

  • Opening of The Black Cat – Edgar Allan Poe
  • Macbeth – William Shakespeare, Portions from Act 1 Scene 1 and Act 4 Scene 1
  • The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe, Excerpt from Volume 2, Chapter 6
  • Cymbeline – from Act 2 Scene 2
  • Portions of The Pit and The Pendulum – Poe
  • Richard II – Richard monologue from Act 3 Scene 2
  • Portions of The Invisible Girl – Mary Shelley
  • Annabel Lee – Poe
  • Shakespeare or Poe? Audience Quiz
  • The Raven – Poe
  • Hamlet/Raven Mash-up (You have to hear this one to appreciate it!)
  • The Tempest – Caliban Monologue from Act 3 Scene 2
The handful of readings that repeated from 2014 were, in my opinion, critical to the series theme. It just wouldn’t be a Poe reading without the melodic (and short) Annabel Lee and it wouldn’t be Halloween season without The Raven and the Wyrd Sisters from Macbeth making an appearance. I was shocked to learn my companion had never heard Poe’s haunting love poem, but not surprised that it made an impact.

The readings from new authors were well received. The Invisible Girl gave me the kind of willies one gets from a supernatural story, whereas The Mysteries of Udolpho recalled the kind of terror Julia Roberts’ character experienced in Sleeping with the Enemy. Invisible in this case carries both a literal and metaphoric meaning that will be familiar to feminist sympathizers.

The cast consisted of James Kassees, Danielle Lenee, Matthew Mastronardi, and Megan Slater, with Mastronardi accompanying on the cello. Mastronardi’s arrangements and original compositions, including sound effects, were only applied to a handful of the readings, but to terrific effect, particularly Poe’s The Pit and The Pendulum (my favorite Poe story, which, admittedly, I failed to read in favor of the Vincent Price movie version).

David Stradley (who directed the production and assembled the readings) cleverly breaks up the longer readings using the four diverse voices, and the individual cast members effectively project multiple characters in rapid succession when called for.

The guest experience was enhanced with the offering of a hot, mulled cider. I was pleased to have a chance to stretch my legs, despite there being no intermission, thanks to a quiz-off between another patron and me; we took turns listening to a line of text and guessing whether it was Shakespeare or Poe.

My 14-year-old son has attended readings before, but this was my husband’s first reading. The pace is quick, and it would be a great entrée into theater for most newbie patrons. As far as children, the content is no scarier than Scar or Ursula or Jafaar, and regularly exposing a young mind to the linguistics of centuries past may make high school Shakespeare assignments easier. I strongly encourage you to buy a ticket for the mini-goth, zombie lover or emo baby in your life – the Hamlet/Raven Mash-up should be right up their alley.

Other than a generally excellent setting, there are no lighting effects, which could be interesting in future years. The nearby parking was full, ostensibly due to activity in an adjacent building, but there is a convenient drop off point for passengers, and handicap spaces were still available nearby.

DelShakes puts on similar events around Valentine’s Day, with a “Shakespeare + St. Valentine” program planned for 2016. I’m glad the format fits with other holidays. Otherwise, I’d be awaiting the fifth annual Halloween-time reading like a kid anticipating, well, Halloween.

Some tickets remain available for late October dates. Click here to order.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Delightfully ‘Shrew-d’ Lesson Under the Stars

By Guest Blogger, Carol Van Zoeren
Carol is a 40+ year veteran of community theater and retired from DuPont.

DelShakes Opening Night in Rockwood Park
Full disclosure – I am a DelShakes groupie. I’ve attended every year since they started, and love everything about it: The Shakespeare factoids to read and pause as you trudge up the hill, the community picnicking, the beautiful setting. It just isn’t summer in Wilmington for me without them.

And the shows! Always good, and this year’s Taming of the Shrew is most delightfully one of the best I’ve seen. Director Samatha Bellomo and the cast expertly tackle the challenges of in-the-round staging, which draws the audience in so we feel we’re part of the action. The vibrant costumes by Kayla Speedy keep it visually interesting while helping guide us through the multiple disguises. And the outsized physical antics and perfect delivery of the Bard’s baudiest lines produce hearty belly laughs.

At its core, however, Shrew is a difficult play for modern audiences to square with gender equality. Both Producing Artistic Director David Stradley and Director Bellomo made this point in their program notes. The company’s struggle with threading that needle has really paid off, and I now see the play in an entirely new light.

Most of this challenge falls on the central pair Petruchio (Charlie DelMarcelle) and Katharina (Felicia Leicht), and they succeed.  Their first meeting crackles with breathless attraction, which launches a lovely trajectory for each character. DelMarcelle’s Petruchio is more caring and less cocky. Leicht conveys a delicate vulnerability, even longing, behind her brash exterior. From this grows genuine affection, mutual respect and desire for the others’ happiness. In this context, Katharina’s final monologue is not submission to a conqueror. It is liberation from self-imposed exile. Yeah, I admit I got a little weepy.

The relationships between masters and servants echo this genuine affection. Lucentio (Kevin Hoffmann) trusts his servant Tranio (Ife Foy) with his name and his love life. Petruchio’s poor put-upon servant Grumio (James Kern) always comes through in a pinch. In contrast, the Katharina’s sister Bianca (Tabitha Allen) proves to be disdainful under her “perfect” exterior, especially in a very funny Act 1 scene with her sister and father (Michael Gamache).

It’s a thrill to learn something new about a familiar play. It’s even better learn something new about oneself. DelShakes delivers on both, and proves once again that Shakespeare always has something to teach us. Plus, it’s just really, really fun!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ebbie's Top Theater Performances of 2014!

2014 was another wonderful year for the theater in Delaware! I was excited that a Delaware-based theater company, in this case the Wilmington Drama League (WDL), was producing the coming of age show, 13, The Musical. I had taken my nephew to see the musical on Broadway about five years ago and I thought, "what a fantastic show to introduce young teens to the theater!" The WDL's production was highlighted by the rousing performances of its young cast members. The production was such a success that it was transferred to a professional theater company in Pennsylvania!

I was floored by Kathleen Pirkl Tague's performance in The University of Delaware's Resident Ensemble Players' production of Margaret Edson's play Wit. Tague perfectly captured the emotions and struggles a person goes through while not just fighting, but coming to terms with advanced stage cancer. This play doesn't just land on my top for 2014, but my top for the decade!
I always love spending a summer evening outside watching a performance and the Delaware Shakespeare Festival's exhilarating production of Hamlet did not disappoint. Sipping wine while watching one of the Bard's best tragedies with a great friend made for delightful summer evening. From the stellar cast to the amazing set, the production was absolutely mesmerizing! 

 It was a great treat to see two veteran TV actors (Michael Learned and Daniel Davis) star in A.R. Gurney's sentimental two-character play Love Letters at The Delaware Theatre Company (DTC). I hadn't seen the play since I was in high school when Colleen Dewhurst and E.G. Marshall portrayed the parts at The DuPont Theatre, then The Playhouse. The DTC production immediately reminded me why I fell in love with this charming play so many years ago about a relationship between two people over the course of their lives.

I look forward to seeing more great theater in 2015!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Get Thee to Delaware Shakespeare Festival’s Exhilarating Production of Hamlet!

There is nothing like spending a gorgeous summer night with friends, wine, nosh and one of The Bard’s most famous plays performed live outside. Thankfully the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF) provides this opportunity in Rockwood Park! Regardless if you are a Shakespeare aficionado or novice, you will have a delightful evening at DSF.

This year’s DSF production is Hamlet. Of course, most of us have read Hamlet and/or seen a production of the play or a film version. We know Hamlet, but director David Stradley breathes new life into this iconic piece. His sophisticated production ignites the enchanting grounds of Rockwood Park and makes the material fresh and exciting.

The multi-level stage by Scenic Designer Oona Curley with the park as its backdrop is enthralling. The cutout quasi-square–shaped back wall not only makes it convenient for the actors to enter and exit the stage, but it also frames the scenes with the lush green field in the distance. It’s as if each scene begins as a picture that comes to life.

And, bringing the play to life is a stellar cast led by Griffin Stanton-Ameisen as Prince Hamlet. Mr. Stanton-Ameisen’s Hamlet has an emo rock star look, which is fitting for a character that is quite expressive with his thoughts and feelings. Mr. Stanton-Ameisen’s dynamic performance conveys the depths of anger and pain his character feels once finding out his uncle (Claudius, the now King of Denmark) has married his mother (Gertrude) after killing his father. Carl Granieri and Caroline Crocker give magnificent performances as the devious Claudius and weary Gertrude.

Clare Mahoney as the lovelorn Ophelia— who is told by Hamlet to go to a nunnery when she professes her love for him — and James Kassees as Opheila’s father Polonius, are both compelling and remarkable in their roles.  

As most know, Hamlet doesn't end well for its leading characters, but that doesn't dampen the lovely evening only DSF can provide in a charming atmosphere.  Don’t delay; get your tickets today before this production closes!

Hamlet plays at Rockwood Park until July 27. Purchase tickets at the door or visit Don’t forget to bring your own chairs, drinks and food! If you don't want to pack food, the Wandering Chef Catering Cart is in the park selling delicious fare!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating the Spooky Holiday with Shakespeare & Poe

By Guest Blogger, Bradford Wason. Brad is the Founder and Director of 23rd & 5th Design Group and currently works with DMG Marketing in Greenville. He is also on the faculty of Delaware College of Art & Design, and is an ardent Wilmington Arts & Culture supporter.

DSF's actors add the appropriate "flair" to
the macabre tales by Shakespeare & Poe.
As fall fast approaches, the nights grow colder, and with it we enter the Halloween season. Traditionally, Halloween means ghosts and ghouls, masks and candy, or hayrides. But if you're looking to experience an intimate evening in the dark side of theatre, the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF) has all the mirth and matter you'll need this season. Ghosts, spirits, witches and haunting stories are included, in this mash-up of William Shakespeare plays and poems and short stories of Edgar Allen Poe. This format uniquely blends the two together in one fascinating macabre journey, as narrated by DSF veterans Caroline Crocker (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentleman of Verona), Adam Darrow (The Two Gentleman of Verona), James Kassees (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentleman of Verona), and a newcomer to DSF, Clare O'Malley.  

After its debut hit in 2012, The Shakespeare/Poe - A Night of Readings from The Dark Side returns, traveling to the gothic halls of Rockwood Mansion, the galleries of the Newark Arts Alliance and the grandeur of the Read House & Gardens in Old New Castle. As DSF Producing Artistic Director David Stradley said, "Our summer Festival audiences come from all over the area; so this year, we decided to share this fun evening in venues throughout New Castle County. I think each will bring its own interesting energy to the night."

I couldn't agree with him more, having thoroughly enjoyed the 30-seat, sold-out performance Saturday night at the Read House. The evening of readings runs just over an hour, which made for a excellent late dinner and conversation to follow.

The readings are compiled and directed by Stradley, who does a masterful job weaving the works into a continuous piece. The evening ebbs and flows, from dramatic delivery by James Kassess in The Fall of the House of Usher (Poe) to the "excited sensations" narrated by Clare O'Malley in The Masque of the Red Death (Poe). Not to be outdone by the dark short stories and poems of Poe, Adam Darrow and Caroline Crocker bring to life the juxtaposition of Poe's The Masque of the Red Death in an excerpt of Macbeth (Shakespeare), Act 3, Scene 4, where the tortured Macbeth is visited by the ghost of Banquo.

I appreciated the narrative notes and short quips added by the cast to lighten the mood and provide background. Although the evening is rooted in macabre storytelling — such as an excerpt from Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, or Poe's The Raven — it provides more humorous moments, such as the Hamlet/Raven Mash-up read by the Ensemble. The audience gave a good chuckle to fill out the room as the evening ended with Caroline Crocker's narration of the Caliban Monologue – Act 3, Scene 2, from The Tempest (Shakespeare).

"Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet aires that give delight and hurt not."

If you're looking to enlighten and indulge your senses, this short, intimate evening by the Delaware Shakespeare Festival is not to be missed! ONLY at

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Enthralled by "Two Gents"...of the DelShakes Variety!

Guest Blogger Tizzy Lockman is a near lifelong Wilmingtonian — taking breaks in her teens & 20s to study and live abroad. She has a BA in film and linguistics from New York University, and works as a media producer and nonprofit program manager. While raising an active daughter, Tizzy's hobbies include working with local schools, youth work, nonprofit board service and various community activism and events. She LOVES live music and theatre, but never gets to see as much of it as she would wish.

Balmy midsummer evenings are chockfull of outdoor offerings for culture seekers, alongside our neighbors and those giant dragonflies. And during this theatrical off-season, amidst such a variety of concerts and music festivals to choose from, the Delaware Shakespeare Festival (DSF) has emerged as summer's un-missable entertainment option.  Now in their 11th year, it seems DSF has hit their stride, adeptly combining old classical ways with their own traditions, professionalism with a refreshing spirit that meets the needs of mid-July crowds of Shakespeare lovers.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona may be unlikely to rank in the Top Ten of the casual Shakespeare fans most familiar titles — I know that, for me, it was a play I'd never seen or read before last Saturday’s opening night. And this lack of expectation is likely to give the performance a bit of an edge for audience members similarly new to the story.  One of Shakespeare's earliest comedy works, the play is surprisingly light and accessible, while managing not to spare any tricks of adventure, humor or depth.

DSF brings Two Gents to life with a cast that is remarkable in its youthfulness and professionalism. Allowing the language of Shakespeare to slip off their tongues with natural tones as if it were the latest slang, and their physical characterization to keep every word understandable to the modern ear.The four romantic leads in particular (Adam Darrow as Proteus, Brandon Pierce as Valentine, Clare Mahoney as Julia, and Emilie Krause as Silvia) are perfectly suited to portray the story of the frivolity of young men and women at crossroads, about to launch themselves towards their futures. Centered around a pair of charming best friends — the ambitious Valentine and the romantic Proteus — we meet them as the two are taking steps in different directions, the latter focused on love and the former on establishing his status in society.  But being a comedy, wires are soon to be crossed...

The comedy itself isn’t Shakespeare’s most perfect — some of the twists late in the plot beg a forgiving audience — but the cast has done such a fine job of shaping the characters they play throughout the early scenes, that makes it easier to take the leap with them and accept the surprising and outlandish decisions that make up the final act. It is a play devoted to themes of betrayal and infidelity, the foibles and madness of youth.  The four primary characters develop over the arc of the performance, at great credit to the actors. Proteus and Valentine change the most remarkably. Proteus transforming from a guileless youth to calculating deviant, and the initially cynical Valentine becomes the lost and lovelorn one. In the end, both are stronger for their evolution. Instead of seeming ridiculous, you can read their actions, such as Valentine forgiving Proteus for his plentiful indiscretions, as heroic and instructive.

Where there are gentlemen (and women) there must be servants, and the show provides a Downton Abbey-esque parallel set of players in these roles. Far from standing in the shadows of their masters, these character are broader, and the standout comedians of the night.  In particular are Speed (Max Cove), Launce (Griffin Stanton-Amiesen) and Lucetta (Caroline Crocker). They move along the action and give us breaks from it; and the inclusion of Crab the dog (played during my performance by the scruffy Prince) brings with it levity and familiar sweet laughs (along with the tension of having an animal on the live stage).

The simple staging, unadorned apart from a bouquet of colorful umbrellas, allows these performances to shine. Different this year from the past several is the flipping of the theatre — the Rockwood house to our backs, the audience is gazing down into the park, with trees as a backdrop, and entrances visible at the periphery. When the sun set at my showing, the footlights brought the set into vibrant color and cast the well-blocked figures' shadows large against the backdrop of the trees.  It was enchanting. The sound system was clear as a bell — a notable improvement from past years for which they deserve to be praised.

The Delaware Shakespeare Festival has used its past decade to develop some great traditions: Entrances from the crowd that make you feel as if you've happened upon the action, and the cast makes a hasty exit from their bows to line the path where the audience exits. It’s a reversal in which the audience feels it is being given the utmost respect by the stars they’ve spent the past hours watching.

All in all, a charming cast portraying a fun story in a bucolic setting — our local Shakespeare seems to get better with each passing year. The large and appreciative audience at my show seemed to agree; a third had attended three or more DSF performances, and more than half were brand new to the experience. One mutual happiness, indeed!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shhhhhhh! It’s Shakespeare’s Macbeth!

Was it the lovely evening, cooled by the threat of a storm, which never materialized, that made the evening so pleasant?

The bagpipes were resonant and the scent of spruce redolent as we walked up the hill. We spread out our pallets (we were given spots close to the stage as we had no chairs to block the vision of those in front of us) and started our picnic. We watched the couple in front of us set up their roses, anniversary card and rosé wine as they cuddled and smiled. A contagious contentment spread.

Banquo (Adam Altman) and Malcolm (Allen Radway) gave a funny theatre lecture telling us that the real Macbeth was a great and just king and that much ink had been spilled to justify Shakespeare’s portrayal of him as a murderous despot.

When Allyson Sands Good appeared as Lady Macbeth, I was immediately transported into the story. Her delivery of Shakespearean English seemed as clear as modern speech and I was as excited as she when she greeted her husband as Thane of Cawdor. Her overzealous and eager urging of Macbeth (David Blatt) was as hard to take for me as it was for him. Blatt was able to show the conflict between Macbeth’s love for his wife, for his children, and for Banquo as he yielded to a temptation, which also seemed to be his destiny.

The play seemed brief and I had just stopped mourning the senseless deaths of the children of Macduff and the lonely wanderings of Banquo’s son Fleance, they appeared in the curtain call together – the wildly red-haired Harcourt-Brooke siblings. How lovely to have their Scots features to enhance the play.

Coming down the hill in the magic of the cool evening, I felt that Birnam wood had indeed come to my perch on the high hill of Rockwood Mansion Park.

Margaret Darby

Providing an interesting pre-show lecture, Actors Altman and Radway reminded us to listen for Shakespeare’s use of meter, as well as his disregard for iambic pentameter. In fact, as they emphasized, plays during his time were “heard”, not watched. The theme of the destructive trickle-down effect of a bad king on his empire is present in many of the Bard’s plays. Poor Hamlet is tortured by the evil that runs rampant in his own family; King Lear goes mad from his own terrible decisions. Lady Macbeth is engulfed by her own bloodlust and desire for power.

Allyson Sands Good plays Lady Macbeth boldly and expertly. Her transformation from ambitious wife, courting evil into a lost soul who has descended into irreversible madness is powerful, and almost sympathetic. As Good speaks, she is so expressive and free, one forgets she is working within the confines of the written word.

Also strong is David Blatt’s performance as Macbeth. The transfer of evil from husband to wife is almost palpable. His speech “Out, out brief candle” seems a foil to Lady Macbeth’s earlier “Out, damned spot” monologue, which exposes the undoing of her sanity. As Macbeth embraces evil, he becomes seething under his veneer of cheer, whereas Lady Macbeth’s ambitions bring her to an almost unexpected demise of her sanity.

Staged by Artistic Director Molly Cahill Govern, the play runs at Rockwood Mansion Park through the end of July.

For tickets and information about the Delaware Shakespeare Festival:

Jessica Graae