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Arts & Entertainment

Irvington Shakespeare Company’s Free Outdoor Festival To Serenade the Rivertowns, July 15-31

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July 12, 2022

By Paula Romanow Etzel—

“This bud of love by summer’s ripening breath may prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.”  The words of William Shakespeare himself foreshadow the magical experience awaiting local audiences this month when Irvington Shakespeare Company presents its second annual Summer Shakespeare Festival from July 15-31.

The company will present Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost on the terrace of Verrazzano Hall along the hills of Mercy College. This expansive, green, and easily accessible space provides a perfect setting for patrons of all ages to rediscover Shakespeare – or fall in love with him for the first time.

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Verrazzano Terrace

Unlike last year, no tickets or registration are required to attend (though donations are welcome). Audience members are invited to bring their own chairs and blankets, sit back, escape the worries of the world, and immerse their senses in the joyfulness of live theater.

Founded by actor and Irvington native Kamran Saliani, Irvington Shakepeare Company (ISC), an Irvington Theater partner, debuted its first production, Twelfth Night, at the O’Hara Nature Center last summer to rave reviews. This past March, ISC captivated audiences at Mercy College with their innovative adaptation of Ian McKellan’s groundbreaking show, Acting Shakespeare — endorsed by Sir McKellan himself.

Love’s Labour’s Lost follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to swear off the company of women for three years so that they can focus on study and fasting. When the Princess of France and her ladies arrive, however, things get complicated. Exploring themes of masculine love and desire, reckoning and rationalization, and reality versus fantasy, Love’s Labour’s Lost (believed to have been written in the 1590s) is a rarely-performed comedic triumph with an ending that audience members won’t see coming.

Shakespeare’s classic comedy will spring to life with a professional cast featuring Caturah Brown (she/her) as the Princess of France, Juliet Perrell (she/her) as Rosaline, Emma Freeman (she/her) as Katharine, Jane Abbott (she/her) as Maria (and Movement Director), Sarah Bitar (she/her) as Boyet, Julia Schonberg (she/her) as Ferdinand, Sage Newman (they/them) as Berowne (and Dramaturge), Traci Redmond (she/her) as Longaville, and Kamran Saliani (he/him) as Dumaine (and Producer).

Saliani has created from scratch an organization that engages people of all ages and backgrounds, inspires collaboration between local entities, and takes steps to ensure that productions are inclusive, accessible via public transportation, and presented through an anti-racist, in­ter­sec­tional lens.

Kamran Saliani

“Shake­speare wrote from a Eu­ro­cen­tric view­point in a time when only men could play the roles. His work was not ex­actly a bea­con of in­clu­siv­ity,” says Saliani. “Now, top that off with com­plex plot lines, po­etic and con­fus­ing old Eng­lish lan­guage, and we know why watch­ing Shake­speare can seem like work to many.” 

Yet ISC has the unique ability to break down barriers and present Shakespeare’s works in ways that everyone can understand and enjoy. 

Sarah Bitar, who plays Boyet, is a Brooklyn-based trilingual actor, vocalist, and activist from Lebanon and a graduate of the Stella Adler Studio. Through acting, teaching, and devising, she seeks to explore the different facets of human experience in all its depth and absurdity. “Working with ISC on Love’s Labour’s Lost has been a gentle break away from the urgent ‘panicky’ theatre-making of the city,” she says. “A first-class love jet to an infected Navarre retreat. She welcomes laughter and play. 

Tech director, Sarah French, who grew up in Maine, explains, “Storytelling is one of the most important things we do as humans, and right now we’re all evaluating what stories we want to tell and how we want to tell them. ISC does an amazing job of pushing the boundaries of traditional Shakespeare to showcase the universal themes of the bard’s work on an accessible, intersectional stage, and I’m overjoyed to be joining them this season!”

Many of ISC’s cast and crew were raised in and around the rivertowns. Juliet Perrell, who plays Rosaline, grew up in Croton-on-Hudson. “Besides my love for Shakespeare,” says Perrell, “I was particularly interested in working with ISC since my roots were also planted in Westchester. I love the mission that the theater stands for, which is to decolonize Shakespeare and make it accessible for all audiences — and what better place to do it than the place where I grew up?”

Actor Traci Redmond is based in Dobbs Ferry. “ISC has given me a fun opportunity to create the character of Lord Longaville that I might not have been given otherwise,” she says.

Julia Schonberg, who lives in Tarrytown, plays Ferdinand, King of Navarre. “Ever since meeting Kamran and learning about ISC,” she reflects, “ I have been drawn to the company’s interest in both building greater community between local Westchester artists and in creating more accessible, more inclusive theater spaces with an aim toward building deeper community with local audiences.” 

Jonah Scott

Like Saliani, ISC music directors, Jonah and Sierra Scott, grew up in Irvington. “I had an incredible time working with Kamran and the ISC last year,” says Jonah, “and wanted to be a part of the efforts to help grow the program in its second year. Also, as a musician who mostly makes records, I am excited at the opportunity to create music that coexists alongside acting and dancing.”

Sierra Scott

 

Original lyrics and music for Love’s Labour’ Lost are composed, written, and performed live by Jonah and Sierra. “I’m happy to be back with ISC for my second summer because Kamran and the team do a great job of making Shakespeare more accessible, both for audiences and for people like me who aren’t super familiar with his works,” says Sierra. “ There is a real feeling of community among those of us working on these productions, and it’s uplifting to grow closer to new people while reinterpreting classic plays with empathy, inclusion, and kindness at the forefront.”

Love’s Labour’s Lost will premiere at the Verrazzano Terrace at Mercy College on Friday and Saturday, July 15 and 16 at 7:30 p.m. There will be a special performance at Hudson Park in New Rochelle on Sunday, July 17 at 6:30 p.m. Performances will resume at Mercy College on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 22, 23, and 24 at 7:30 p.m., and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, July 29, 30, and 31 at 7:30 p.m.  

The festival is a co-production with Executive Producer, Mercy College, along with fiscal sponsors Center for Independent Productions and Fractured Atlas. ISC is grateful for the help of Mercy College’s Lisa Mills-Campbell, Peter West, Marc Palmieri, Jessica Ward, Kelli Johnn, and Maria Walsh-Regotti.

The stage is managed by Elizabeth Hetzel (she/they) and technically directed by Sarah French (she/they). 

Elizabeth Hetzel and Sarah French

Mercy College is a 100% accessible campus. Anyone with a disability who would like specific support options are encouraged to reach out to info@irvshakespeare.org.

Mercy’s campus is accessible through all modes of transportation. Parking is free in the college’s large parking lot. Metro-North Railroad (MTA) has a Mercy College-specific station, Ardsley-on-Hudson, accessible on the Green Line/Hudson Line. There is a Bee-Line bus station that arrives at Mercy College: Bee-Line Bus Route 1T / 1W / 66 at Hudson Road West and South Broadway (Mercy College). All Bee-Line rides are free this year.

 

Love’s Labour’s Lost – Cast and Crew:

Caturah Brown (she/her) – Princess of France

Born and raised in White Plains, New York, Caturah Brown received her B.F.A. from Marymount Manhattan College and completed the Midsummer in Oxford program at British American Drama Academy. Her most recent theater credits include The Tempest (Hudson Valley Shakespeare), good friday (The Flea Theater), and Or, An Astronaut Play (The Tank Theater). Caturah also hosts weekly new play readings live via zoom with her company, Online Theater Company. To stay up to date with all of her projects, visit https://www.caturahbrown.com, and on Instagram @caturahdelores_.

Sage Newman (they/them) – Berowne

Sage Newman is a New York City-based performer born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. They are an ensemble member of Irvington Shakespeare Company and recently appeared in ISC’s revival of Ian McKellen’s Acting Shakespeare, as well as in the company’s inaugural production of Twelfth Night, where they played Sebastian. Earlier this year, they could be seen off-Broadway in FunikiJam World Music’s Shenanigans: Irish Celebration!  Other theatrical credits include Guilty Party, a two-hander that they devised with their writing partner and fellow ISC ensemble member Sophia Metcalf, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, One Man Two Guvnors, Agent 355 (Chautauqua Theater Company), plus productions of Spring Awakening, Mamma Mia!, Seussical, Hamlet, The Tempest, Salt-Water Moon, Julius Caesar, and Grease. Film/TV credits include New Amsterdam, I Won the Lottery, Homicide City, Paper Angels, and award-winning web series Assigned Female at Birth. Instagram: @sagebnewman

Jane Abbott (she/her) – Maria 

Thrilled to be making her debut with the Irvington Shakespeare Company, Jane is an Irvington native and a current resident. In addition to playing Maria, she is also Love’s Labour’s Lost’s Director of Movement. She graduated with a B.A. in Dance from Columbia University. In March, Jane made her debut with the Mark Morris Dance Group in its production of L’Allegro at BAM in Brooklyn; and in May, she made her debut with LA-based dance company Diavolo: Architecture in Motion. Jane is a proud member of Chase Brock Experience with whom she has performed in multiple Off-Broadway productions, including in the original cast of The Girl with the Alkaline Eyes and the revival of The Four Seasons. Additional favorite credits include: General Mischief Dance Theater, Olivia Palacios Dance, the international tour of Legally Blonde: The Musical (Associate Choreographer, Dance Captain, Ensemble), West Side Story and The Music Man at the North Shore Music Theatre, Chicago at Theatre by the Sea, and Brock’s Splendor at the Joyce Theatre and Fire Island Dance Festival. She is so grateful to have the chance to do what she loves in her hometown!

Sarah Bitar (she/her) – Boyet

Sarah Bitar is a Brooklyn-based trilingual actor, vocalist, and activist from Lebanon and a graduate of the Stella Adler Studio. In her acting, teaching and devising she aims to explore the different facets of human experience in all its depth and absurdity. Sarah highly welcomes laughter and play. Recent credits include Stockade (Veronique Films); Glimpse; Revolución (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater); Hail Elisha (LAByrinyrinth Theater Company). She is grateful to be here now.

Emma Freeman (she/her) – Katharine

Emma Freeman is an actor, singer, and songwriter currently based in New York. She originated the role of Finn in the original Off-Broadway folk musical Oceanborn. Other performance credits include Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Olive (The 25th… Spelling Bee), Nina (The Seagull), Martha (Spring Awakening), and Feste (Twelfth Night). Her original singer-songwriter music can be heard on all major streaming platforms, with her debut indie folk album on the way. Emma also records demo vocals for new musicals and original songs, and she enjoys creating arrangements of her own. Emma has a B.F.A. in musical theater from the University of Miami. https://linktr.ee/emmaraldcity

Sarah French (she/they) – Tech Director

Sarah French is a lighting and scenic designer, theater artist, editor, and tea acionado originally from Portland, Maine. Their favorite design credits include Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show, The Dinosaur Musical, and Saudi Scenes, and they have encompassed every possible technical/production role at one time or another. When they aren’t deep in a book or hanging from the catwalks, Sarah can be found crafting, winning trivia nights, and running D&D campaigns.

Elizabeth Hetzel (she/they) – Stage Manager and Assistant Director

Elizabeth is so grateful for the opportunity to work with the Irvington Shakespeare Company! Currently based in Poughkeepsie, New York, Elizabeth grew up in Irvington and is thrilled to see Shakespeare brought to her hometown. While working towards a B.A. in History at Vassar College, they have pursued many theatrical projects through student organizations and independent work. Their recent credits include, but are not limited to, Shakespeare’s Pericles (Stage Manager) and Antony and Cleopatra (Stage Manager), Plano (Production Manager), and Eurydice (Director and Stage Manager). Elizabeth especially thanks her friends, collaborators, and Vassar’s Shakespeare Troupe for their support. 

Juliet Perrell (she/her) – Rosaline

As a Croton-on-Hudson native, Juliet is thrilled to be joining the company of ISC’s Love’s Labour’s Lost. New York credits: Over Easy (Connelly Theatre), Bisexual Sadness, Taking the Plunge (Cherry Lane Theatre). Regional: Like the Summer Sun (Lawn Chair Theatre), Les Miserables (The MUNY), As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey), and Seminar (Women’s Theatre Project). TV/Film: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon), Oral (Zoom premiere with Andrea Martin), Cupid’s Arrow (Independent). Education: B.F.A. in Acting, Emerson College. Juliet is an oral-deaf advocate and proud wearer of bilateral cochlear implants. Here’s to more stories that shake up the narrative. www.julietperrell.com

Traci Redmond (she/her) – Longaville

Traci Redmond is a Dobbs Ferry-based actor and theater-maker. Last summer she worked with ISC on their inaugural production of Twelfth Night as stage manager. Most recently she was seen on stage in River’s Edge Theater Company’s productions of Listening as part of Short+Sweet fundraising play festival, and Riverside Haunts: Stories to Tell in the Dark. She recently stage-managed River Arts’ production of Kindness Committee. Select New York City stages as a performer include: Manhattan Theater Club, Dixon Place, fi:af/PS122, Primary Stages, bluemouth inc, The Tank Theater, Queens Players, The Creek Theater, and National Comedy Theater. She is thankful to Kamran for starting such a wonderfully inclusive and important company. Traci sends love and a million thank-you’s to Jon, Fitz and Ripley for their love and support. www.traciredmond.com

Julia Schonberg  (she/her) – Ferdinand

An actor, theater maker, and applied theater practitioner living in Tarrytown, New York, Julia received her B.F.A in Theater Arts from Boston University and her M.A. in Applied Theater from CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. Julia has worked both on and offstage with New York-based companies: The Barrow Group, Houses on the Moon, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, SPACE on Ryder Farm, Superhero Clubhouse, The Bushwick Starr, Brave New World Rep, Writopia Lab, Columbia Stages, and River’s Edge Theatre Co. In 2016, Julia founded The Neighborhood Theatre Project, a theater company that creates original, verbatim theater from interviews and conversations. juliaschonberg.com, theneighborhoodtheatreproject.org.

Jonah Scott (he/him) – Co-Music Director 

Jonah Scott is a musician, songwriter, and record producer based in Brooklyn, New York. As a member of his band The Altogether, he has released a number of albums and EPs. Such records include “Silo” — one of Bandcamp’s top selling records for August 2020 — and “Dance on the Walls: The Songs of Twelfth Night” — an EP of songs he wrote for the ISC’s inaugural 2021 show. Jonah has also composed music for commercials, including some by Colgate, Microsoft Surface, Tim Hortons, and Spin Master. He is currently working on The Altogether’s latest project, a double-LP due out summer/autumn of 2022. Jonah is thrilled to be back in his hometown working with the ISC for a second show!

Sierra Scott (she/they) – Co-Music Director

Sierra Scott is a songwriter and guitarist who grew up in Irvington and is excited to be back with ISC for a second summer of raucous, good fun. Sierra and her brother Jonah, who is co-writing and performing with her for Love’s Labour’s Lost, are no strangers to making music together, usually under the band name The Altogether. Sierra studied musicology at UCLA and was a songwriter, singer, and guitarist in the band Girl Friday until moving back to New York in 2020. Sierra also just released her first solo album, “Narcissus by The Escape Artist,” and is grateful to be undertaking so many musical adventures.

Kamran Saliani (he/him) – Dumaine

Kamran is an Iranian-American actor and lifelong resident of Irvington. His connection to theater began on the stages of the Irvington High School Drama Club. His passion for performing led him to pursue theater as a profession. After training, studying, and performing throughout the New York metropolitan area for the past few years, Kamran realized the wonderful opportunity here in his hometown; why not help bring high quality professional theater to the village that helped shape him into the person and theater artist he is today? Kamran has performed in over 60 productions, ranging from film, to theater, to improv. He’s performed theatrically with the Showdogs Theater Collective, Box Theater Company, Inwood Shakespeare Festival, Hudson Guild Theater, and more. His film work includes collaborations with Columbia University, where he has been cast and performed in over 20 films. Kamran received his B.F.A. in Drama from New York University Tisch School of the Arts.

Shakespeare’s works reflect many of the themes and challenges present in our world today, offering catharsis and hope. As per the company’s mission statement, the Irvington Shakespeare Company seeks to decolonize and perform Shakespeare’s plays in ways that everyone can understand in order to better process this critical moment in time. 

For more information, visit irvshakespeare.org

 

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