Shakespeare in Delaware Park
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Shakespeare in Delaware Park is one of the largest free outdoor Shakespeare festivals in the country which takes place during summer months in Delaware Park located in the city of Buffalo, New York. The festival attracts about 40,000 audience members each year.
Productions are performed for the public at no cost in Buffalo's Delaware Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Over 76 productions have been mounted in the 38 years that Shakespeare in Delaware Park has been running, with plays ranging from tragedies such as Romeo and Juliet, comedies like The Taming of the Shrew, and histories such as Henry IV (parts 1 and 2). The majority of actors come from the Buffalo area, and performances run Tuesday through Sunday from June through August, with dates varying each year. The shows are always performed in the evening, and normally begin between the hours of 7–7:30pm.
Elkin began the project for Shakespeare in Delaware Park by asking the Mayor of the city of Buffalo to help in developing a free Shakespeare theater festival to resemble the New York Shakespeare Festival. Mayor Stanley Makowski gave permission for the performances to take place in Delaware Park, as well as pledge to fund the electricity costs for all performances (a pledge honored to this day).
Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s current Tudor style stage was first built and designed by Gary Casarella (technical director for the University at Buffalo's Theatre department), and was constructed at the University at Buffalo with funding from the school's dean. After the construction of the stage it was marked, taken apart, and transported to Delaware Park, where it was reconstructed at the base of what is now known as “Shakespeare Hill”, during the 1993 season, in time for that year's production of Romeo and Juliet. That season's first production used a temporary stage, and prior seasons used other stages. The seating has always been the hill itself, and audience members watch the productions on blankets, lawn chairs, and other self-provided seating.
In 1991, Shakespeare in Delaware Park became a fully independent non-profit organization whose only funding comes from donations made by the public, audience members, the City of Buffalo, Erie County, and outside entities such as M&T Bank, the local NBC affiliate WGRZ-TV, the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and The Buffalo News.
The majority of roles for the productions in Shakespeare in Delaware Park are done through an audition process held at the Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s offices, the Pfeifer Theater, before the summer season. Most actors are from the local area of Buffalo, NY and are hired seasonally, with the exception of a small troupe members who work year long with the company, performing in high schools throughout the Buffalo area.
The play “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Play!” written by the troupe members, is an hour long show they perform for high school students that teaches parts of Shakespeare’s life, times, and Theater, by incorporating different parts of Shakespeare’s work such as his plays; “Comedy of Errors”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and “Hamlet”, and some of his sonnets. The actors will then stay after the performance to answer questions students might have about Shakespeare and his work. This small troupe of actors also provide workshops for students where they can work alongside the actors to learn different elements such as; iambic pentameter, sound, meaning, and image, and can arrange these workshops to work around a specific Shakespearean play students may be working on.
The company also offers an intense 6 day workshop that includes the performance of “Where There’s a Will, There’s a Play”, the three day workshop, and a joint performance that includes both students and troupe members from Shakespeare in Delaware Park.
Staff/Board of Directors
- Saul Elkin: Founder/Artistic Director
- Lisa Ludwig-Kramer: Managing Director
- Susan Drozd: Office Manager
- Nell Mohn: Development Coordinator
Board of Directors
- Tod A. Kniazuk: President
- Ellen V. Weissman: Vice-President
- Darren Kempner: Treasurer
- Lisa Zolnowski: Secretary
- The Merchant of Venice
- Twelfth Night
- Murder in the Cathedral (indoors at St. Andrews Episcopal Church)
- Hamlet (indoors at the Pfeiffer Theatre)
- The Winter's Tale
- As You Like It
- The Dresser (indoors at the Pfeiffer Theatre)
- Measure for Measure
- Henry V
- The Comedy of Errors