Shakespeare's "King Lear", directed by Kittson O'Neill, will run July 24 - 28 at West Philly's Clark Park.

The Bard X 2

Two Shakespeare productions open outdoors in Delaware’s Rockwood Park and Philadelphia’s Clay Park.

“O sleep! O gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse, how have I frighted thee, That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down And steep my senses in forgetfulness? Why rather, sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs, Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee, And hush’d with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber, Than in the perfum’d chambers of the great, Under the canopies of costly state, And lull’d with sound of sweetest melody?” – William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2′ (1597) act 3, sc. 1, l. 5

From the aforementioned quote, William Shakespeare wrote the book on having his plays portrayed as part of the great outdoors. Rather than just think of this as a staging option, in this fashion, the dawn and the dusk have the capabilities of drama that one of the author’s characters might have.

“The deep of night is crept upon our talk, And Nature must obey necessity.”
‘Julius Caesar’ (1599) act 4, sc. 3, l. 225

With that, two Shakespeare works jump into the hissing of summer’s lawns with a frenzy. The grassy knolls of Wilmington, Delaware’s Rockwood Park (4651 Washington Street Extension) and their iteration of The Merry Wives of Windsor (July 12-28), and the legendary bowl that is West Philly’s Clark Park, with King Lear (July 24-28).

Directed by Krista Apple, renowned for her many takes on “Romeo & Juliet”, and portraying Beatrice in last summer’s Much Ado About Nothing, The Merry Wives of Windsor is as close to slapstick as Shakespeare comes. With an over-the-top comic centerpiece, Falstaff, and a set of chase-and-catch circumstances (mistake identities, lustful indignations) that would outpace The Fast & the Furious. Along with a cast of WIlmingtonians, Philadelphia’s Apple has a handful of Philly friends in the cast and its creatives.

For King Lear, Shakespeare in the Park Artistic Director Kittson O’Neill takes the director’s chair and turns Lear’s mad world repeatedly. Surely, there is a hint of the current political and the popular culturalism in the story of suffering kingdoms, mono-maniacal royals, and power-hungry role-playing. But along with two of Philly’s favorite actors Brian Anthony Wilson and Charlotte Northeast, along for the ride, O’Neill has cast a handful of West Philadelphia war veterans as the King’s sentries. One, in which to continue Shakespeare in the Park’s commitment to a sense of community, and two, what could be more badass than having real soldiers holding up the line.

Amy Frear as Mistress Ford (left) and Brett Ashley Robinson as Mistress Page in
“The Merry Wives of Windsor”.

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