Youth across the country have found their voices and undertaken challenges of late in the wake of violence and negativity.
In its seventh year, the Scranton Shakespeare Festival has chosen pieces that reflect that.
“It was supposed to be all about a new generation and a bit of a coming-of-age season, and it’s only become more relevant with the … Parkland activities in Florida,” said Michael Bradshaw Flynn, the festival’s founder and artistic director. “All of the plays we have this summer have some sort of element of young people finding their voices or making their way to some sort of top.”
The festival opens Thursday, June 28, with the musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” which it will present downtown in center court of the Marketplace at Steamtown. The story follows an ambitious young man who rises quickly through a company’s ranks. 

“This part show is about … the chaos that happens at one of these big New York businesses, and I thought it would be really cool to be in an actual business,” said Flynn, who will play lead J. Pierrepont Finch. “And it has a great space.”
“How to Succeed” opened on Broadway in 1961 and starred “Mad Men” actor Robert Morse. Flynn worked with Morse on Broadway and nabbed him to provide recorded narration for Scranton’s “How to Succeed.” Morse donated his services, Flynn said.
“It’s pretty fantastic,” he added. “We are a younger company in that we don’t have a lot of more mature actors, so it’s really sort of nice to hear this old-fashioned character, this mature voice doing these iconic lines. It was really exciting.”
The festival’s remaining shows move to Scranton Preparatory School’s St. Robert Bellarmine Theatre. Opening Friday, July 6, the festival offers its first Shakespearean work of the season, “The Tempest,” which focuses on a father and daughter, Prospero and Miranda, who live on an island where a shipwreck occurs.
“It’s really about Miranda finding her voice and changing her father’s opinions, so there’s sort of that slip in power from the daughter… now being the person who’s basically changing his policy and really spurring him for forgiveness,” Flynn said.
While “The Tempest” usually features about 18 actors, the festival will present it with just three plus a featured singer, a group that includes Scranton native and Actors’ Equity Association member Maura Malloy.
“We’re going to work in on a table basically, so there are different objects to play with, to use as characters, to use as different aspects of a personality,” said Malloy, who lives in New York City and directed for the festival during its last two seasons. “It’s experimental in a way at this point in the rehearsal process. … (The director is) letting the three of us discover it as we go, so it’s kind of a fascinating rehearsal process in a way.”
“The Tempest” is double-billed with a newer prequel, “Sycorax,” which focuses on a witch only mentioned in Shakespeare’s original, Flynn said.

“It’s going to be a really cool piece that’s going to complement that evening,” he added.
A family-friendly staging of “Hansel & Gretel” from the festival’s Youth Theatre Lab follows at Scranton Prep on two Saturdays, July 7 and 14, before the festival presents Shakespeare’s comedic “As You Like It” starting Friday, July 13. The festival then shifts back to musical theater with a production of “Footloose,” whose original Broadway version was adapted for the stage and directed by Scranton native Walter Bobbie. That opens Thursday, July 19.
As in past years, the festival will stage each work once more in its final weekend, wrapping up Sunday, July 29. It stars a great group of giving people who have energy and talent, Malloy said, and “I don’t think there’s going to be two shows that are all similar.”
“I don’t know what it’s becoming exactly, but I know it’s growing, which is pretty exciting in that more and more people in the community are getting on the train, which is pretty cool,” Flynn said of the festival. “And I think it’s becoming more inclusive, and I think there are people who keep coming back to us who might never have cared about Shakespeare.”

Scranton Shakespeare Festival schedule

“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”
When: Thursday, June 28, through Saturday, June 30, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 1, 5 p.m.; and Friday, July 27, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Center court, the Marketplace at Steamtown, 300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton

“The Tempest” and “Sycorax”
When: Friday, July 6, and Saturday, July 7, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 8, 3 p.m.; and Saturday, July 28, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

“Hansel & Gretel”
When: Saturdays, July 7 and 14, noon
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

“As You Like It”
When: Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, July 15 and 29, 3 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.

When: Thursday, July 19, through Saturday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, July 22, 3 p.m.; and Sunday, July 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.