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Bringing Shakespeare to Everyone

The Scranton Area Foundation (SAF)  is pleased to support the inaugural Scranton Shakespeare Festival, with the free outdoor performance of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1, 2012, at 6 p.m. at Nay Aug Park.

What: Scranton Shakespeare Festival presents “Midsummer Night’s Dream,”

When: Saturday and Sunday,

June 30 and July 1, 2012, at 6 p.m.

Where: Nay Aug Park

Cost: Free

The REV Theatre Company’s production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1, at 6 p.m. at Nay Aug Park, will serve as the inaugural Scranton Shakespeare Festival.

The production is the first of hopefully many.

“There is a longstanding theatrical history in Scranton that is no more,” said Rudy Caporaso who plays Puck in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” and serves as co-artistic director. “A mission of ours…is to help create a renaissance of that.”

“There’s no earthly reason that we can’t help to bring some of that back here, get some of that theater pride back.”

Caporaso is a co-founder of the REV Theatre Company, along with “Midsummer Night’s Dream” director and co-artistic director Rosey Hay.

The theater company is based in New York and has put on various incarnations of this production in several areas, including Binghamton, N.Y., New York City, Connecticut, and Philadelphia.

West Scranton native and University of Scranton graduate Michael Bradshaw Flynn met Hay and Caporaso when they came to do some work at the University of Scranton. He was later cast in REV’s Binghamton, N.Y. production of “Hamlet.”

It was during that production that the idea for the Scranton Shakespeare Festival was born, with the three serving as co-founders.

“I had always wanted to eventually do summer stock here… and we were throwing different ideas around, and then I remember seeing pictures of their production of ‘Midsummer’ that they did in Binghamton, and I remember thinking it would be very well received here,” said Flynn.

Once a decision was made, Flynn began the process of bringing the production to the area.

He formed a committee made up of himself, Laurie Cadden, Michele Conaboy, who is also the play’s musical director and is a member of the cast, Suzanne Conaboy, Helene Runco, Tim and Gretchen Welby.

The committee helped get the word out about the play, and was able to raise funds through donations and grants from a number of sources, including the Lackawanna County Arts Council and The Scranton Area Foundation, as well as numerous members of the community who donated what they could.

In addition to monetary donations, members of the community have been donating themselves in other ways. The University of Scranton has offered rehearsal space and is housing some of the actors who are in from out of town, local restaurants have offered the actors free meals and some residents have even gone shopping for the group.

“The community has been phenomenal…it makes me emotional, because they’re so incredibly generous and forthcoming. They are cooking and bringing food and donating of themselves in terms of necessary production value stuff that we need,” said Caporaso.

The group’s repayment to the community will be the free showing of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Saturday and Sunday.

For any Shakespeare buffs who might be wondering, the “A” missing from the title wasn’t a mistake, it was eliminated by REV, and it’s one of several alterations the group has made to the production.

“Our production is not your grandfather’s Shakespeare,” said Caporaso.

“It’s very contemporary, very energetic, very athletic, very vibrant, there’s music, there’s song and dance in it.”

The production offers an urban take on Shakespeare’s comedy, with the actors in modern dress, and the show features a number of contemporary songs, including “Mr. Sandman,” “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and “Makin’ Whoopee.”

The changes and additions have been made in an effort to make the play more appealing and accessible to a broader audience, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is story and the language of the play.

“The story is still absolutely true, and our illustrious director Rosey Hay…she’s quiet skilled and adept, she’s worked with the (Royal Shakespeare Company), and she tells the story beautifully and crystal clearly,” said Caporaso.

Flynn, who now resides in Hoboken, N.J., is serving as the play’s producer and is playing Nick Bottom in the show. He said the cast, which is made up of a mix of professional equity actors from out of town as well as local actors, has been blending together nicely.

“To speak honestly, we had a read-through, and usually you feel like there’s a weak link in the production, and I really have to say it was such a strong read-through…and I’m feeling pretty great about the talent and composition of actors and directors. I think it’s going to be a very strong production,” said Flynn.
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