It’s Shakespeare in the Park — our park!
A theater company is about to show that when it comes to outdoor Bard, there’s more than one central park in town.
EBE Ensemble is set to stage a string of performances in late July of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Julius Caesar” in the enchanting pagoda in Prospect Park.
The troupe’s Associate Executive Director Josh Luria said that the pagoda is an ideal space for the Bard’s greatest works.
“Shakespeare often references the sky and nature — here you can actually throw a hand to the sky,” said Luria. “We can make entrances and exits from various spaces in the park and the audience can sit wherever it likes.
“We’re even going to use the audience as plebeian witnesses in ‘Caesar!’ ”
The pagoda itself is also a great spot for a performance. Nestled away in a copse by the boathouse, the elevated stage has played host to musicians and theater groups since the 1880s.
“It’s really magical — you cross this elven bridge to get there,” Luria said. “You make the turn past some trees and there it is. It’s an old structure and you get that feeling from it.”
The stage may be historic, but this band of former New York University students is new to the stage. But EBE’s productions of some of Shakespeare’s most-famous works have several advantages over the bigger-budget operation in West Brooklyn.
First, EBE doesn’t require theatergoers queue up hours in advance for a chance to see the play. Second, audience members aren’t required to “play by the rules” and sit in “seats.”
Lastly, EBE doesn’t have some spotlight-hogging big shot like Al Pacino in the cast (he’s a scenery-chewer anyway).
“We’ve been wanting to bring theater to the community for free,” Luria said. “We’re confident we can pull this off.”
That confidence will come in handy. Performing in the outdoors presents a unique set of challenges, chief among them unruly passersby, noisy lawn mowers, airplanes, and the occasional dog. Last year, Luria got a taste of hostility from the hoi polloi while performing “Henry V” in Prospect Park.
“Someone walking by yelled at us, ‘Go to hell, England!’” Luria said. “It’s a challenge, but we try and think of it as a fun one.”
He added, “Of course, we didn’t improvise a line in Shakespearean English, but we rolled with it.”
For those types of unforeseen moments — along with the sublime ones that only a play by Shakespeare can conjure — EBE will need to raise about $1,000 more. Fortunately, the troupe has already gathered over $2,000, and still has 20 days to go.
So much for the Bard’s famous advice, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”
EBE Ensemble’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Julius Caesar” in the Prospect Park pagoda (near the boathouse, enter the park at Lincoln Road), weekends, July 24-Aug. 7, 1 pm and 4 pm. For info (or to donate), visit www.ebeensemble.com.