Some of Scranton’s best actors, producers and directors want to push the limit of what audiences consider theater.
The sixth annual Scranton Shakespeare Festival, which starts Saturday, June 17, brings productions of the Bard and others to new venues as it begins its month of free performances.
According to Festival Artistic Director Michael Bradshaw Flynn, audiences are in for a completely different experience than previous years. The festival offers everything from intimate performances of one-act plays at Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St., to an immersive performance of baseball-themed musical “Damn Yankees” at PNC Field, 235 Montage Mountain Road, Moosic.
The ballpark spectacle, based on the 1954 novel “The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant” by Douglass Wallop, takes place Friday, July 14, and Saturday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, July 16 and 23, at 5 p.m. Flynn said the musical production showcases the great dancing abilities of this area in a way past festivals could not.
“I wanted to do a show with more of an all-American feel, a little sexier, but still appropriate for all ages,” Flynn said. “There’s going to be hot dogs, beers, and even a seventh inning stretch. We want to push the limits of what people in this area think of theater.”
Before “Damn Yankees,” the festival kicks off with Shakespeare comedy “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” directed by Randy Rand, at Scranton Preparatory School’s St. Robert Bellarmine Theater, 1000 Wyoming Ave., Thursday, June 29, through Saturday, July 1, and Saturday, July 22, all at 8 p.m., and Sunday, July 2, at 3 p.m.
Next is the Bard’s “Measure for Measure,” (directed by Maura Malloy) also at Scranton Prep, which runs from Thursday, July 6, through Saturday, July 8, and Friday, July 21, all at 8 p.m. and Sunday, July 9, at 3 p.m.
Each show offers a unique casting twist. “Two Gentlemen” features an all-male cast, and “Measure for Measure” an all-female cast.
“An all-male cast (for ‘Two Gentlemen’) is great to explore how ridiculous the scenarios really are in it,” Flynn explained. “And there is a lot a company of all female actors for ‘Measure for Measure’ can explore in a way that hasn’t been done before.”
Considered one of Shakespeare’s more-criticized works, “Two Gentlemen” is quite funny when done with the right cast, Flynn said, which he believes the festival has assembled. As for “Measure for Measure,” known for both its hilarity and dark moments, the play contains relevant themes including justice, social issues and conflicting viewpoints. Flynn acknowledged it is performed more throughout the country due to the current political climate.
“They’re both shaping up to be very multi-layered productions with a lot of comedic and serious moments,” Flynn said.
The festival also brings back its Youth Theatre Lab production, a performance created and written entirely by students with help from company professionals. The performance takes place on Saturday, June 17, at 6 p.m.at Scranton Prep.
The festival’s “second stage series,” as Flynn calls it, of one-act plays “Skin of the Teeth” and “Cheeks,” will be staged at Olde Brick Theatre on Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, at 8 p.m.
The one-person plays garnered international recognition with “Cheeks” heading to one of the world’s largest fringe festivals, Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, this year, and “Skin of the Teeth” performed in Edinburgh last year.
With such diverse and acclaimed performances featured this season, Tamara Sevunts, director of public relations for the festival, hopes Scranton continues to land on the map of theatergoers.
“The larger vision for the festival is to become an event that draws enough tourism and activity to Scranton to help give the city’s economy a boost to its heyday glory,” Sevunts said. “Anyone who comes out to the shows is able to get something great for free, and it encourages local business.”
And to those who may be hesitant to attend a festival with the Bard’s moniker, Flynn believes the theater company’s lineup can appeal to anyone.
“We want to offer as much of a plethora of options for theatergoers as we can, and we’re always trying to push the line of our programming,” Flynn explained. “We believe theater should be a place for everybody, and we want to program things for people who may not like Shakespeare or musicals.”
— paul capoccia
Scranton Shakespeare Festival
Youth Theatre Lab performance: Saturday, June 17, at 6 p.m. at St. Robert Bellarmine
Theater at Scranton Preparatory School, 1000 Wyoming Ave.
“Two Gentlemen of Verona”: Thursday, June 29, through Saturday, July 1, and Saturday, July 22, at 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 2, at 3 p.m., Scranton Prep.
“Measure for Measure”: Thursday, July 6, through Saturday, July 8, and Friday, July 21 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 9, at 3 p.m., Scranton Prep
“Damn Yankees”: Friday, July 14, and Saturday, July 15, at 7:30 p.m., Sundays, July 16 and 23, at 5 p.m., PNC Field, 235 Montage Mountain Road, Moosic
“Skin of the Teeth” and “Cheeks”: Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24, at 8 p.m., Olde Brick Theatre, 126 W. Market St.
Tickets are free but reservations for groups are suggested. For reservations or more information, visit www.scrantonshakes.com.