First Look: Shakespeare in Delaware Park

For the last 43 years, audiences all over Western New York have gathered on the Hill behind the Rose Garden in Delaware Park to attend free performances of the Bard’s classics. Picnic baskets, wine, snacks, and Shakespeare, have become a tradition in Buffalo during the summer months, and rightfully so. Shakespeare in Delaware Park has delivered professional productions, free of charge, to the community and continues this season with two productions,  “King Lear” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

“It’s pretty incredible to see that we are now in our 43rd season,” says Lisa Ludwig, Managing Director of Shakespeare in Delaware Park, “this year we have two directors who have assembled wonderful casts for their shows, which include many SDP veterans and some new comers.” Steve Vaughn directs “King Lear” and Kyle LoConti directs “Much Ado About Nothing.”

For an organization that has been around for 43 seasons, there is a need to keep everything fresh for the traditional audiences that attend annually. “This year we are using a new stage configuration, which we call “The Globe” look, which uses a flat proscenium, similar to that of the London’s Globe Theatre,” says Ludwig. “Two years ago we completed a capital campaign for a brand new stage, and for the last two years, we have used the same set up, just to break it in.”

With every theatrical production company, certain challenges arise. That is no different for SDP. It can be especially difficult for a show that is performed outdoors in Buffalo weather. “Weather is our biggest challenge,” says Ludwig, “Last year was our rainiest season in the last 15 years. When it rains, we can’t perform our show, and if we can’t perform our show, we cannot pass the hat.” While SDP is a free performance, the organization does ask for good-will contributions at all performances to help support the productions.

With weather being a deterring factor, Ludwig says that they will not call a show off until the last possible minute because weather changes so rapidly in Western New York. “If we can dry off the stage and do the show we will. Our audiences will sit on the hill with their umbrellas and wait for the rain to pass and the stage to dry–they are a very loyal group.”

Ludwig adds that audiences should bring some type of bug spray or repellent because bugs like to attend the performances as well.

SDP has been a staple for young actors and veteran actors as a bucket list item for many who want to perform the words of Shakespeare on stage for their community. The audition process is one that many look forward to. “We usually hold auditions for the season in February, on a Saturday, where actors are asked to come and perform a two-minute Shakespearian monologue,” says Ludwig, “on occasion, if there is a person who is familiar to us, we will call them directly to call-backs. Once in a while we will pre-cast a role, but we will inform those who are auditioning that that role is not available.” Ludwig says that they see about 100 people annually at the open calls.

Shakespeare is not always a person’s cup of tea. “Shakespeare can be so daunting for people, because what they remember is being forced to read it in high school,” says Ludwig. “What people don’t realize is that Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard, not read.”

If you are still reluctant to try SDP on for size because you aren’t a fan of The Bard, Ludwig says that you should give it a try. “Pack a picnic, bring your blanket and favorite beverage and your favorite people, and take in the beautiful Olmsted park! I guarantee you will fall in love with it, and you will make it a new yearly tradition!”

KING LEAR opens June 21 and runs through July 15, 2018.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING opens July 26 and runs through Aug 19, 2018.

Shows are Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30pm (there IS a show on July 4th)

For more information, click here.

Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Theatre Alliance Of Buffalo.