Pedestrians at Washington Square Park are bound to see a variety performers. From dancers and pianists to singers, there’s always something to watch. Twice a year, however, you can walk through the park and see something special — a full-length performance of a Shakespeare play.
Shakespeare in the Square, NYU’s student-run Shakespeare company, has been presenting the Bard’s plays in the park for two years. The troupe has performed both comedies and tragedies, making them available to NYU’s student body and the general public. Their next production, “Romeo and Juliet,” will be performed on Oct. 27 and 28.
Shakespeare in the Square was created two years ago by Dan Hasse and Rose Bochner, who is also one of the producers of this year’s “Romeo and Juliet” rendition. The company’s goal is to present Shakespeare in an outdoor setting, giving everyone who walks through Washington Square access to the show. The troupe includes approximately 15 students, working as actors, designers, directors and crew. Any NYU student is able to audition for the biannual productions.
“That’s a thing we like to stress,” Hasse said. “Even though this is a Shakespeare company, anyone can audition.”
This emphasis on inclusiveness is the driving force within the company. Their intention is to break down the separation between audience members and the players.
“The whole point is being with the audience, and we’ve found that Shakespeare works best when the actor really uses the audience to his advantage,” company co-director and Tisch junior Noam Tomaschoff said.
Both Hasse and Tomaschoff cited this as one of the most amazing parts of their production of the play. Tomaschoff said that it will attract passersby.
“During the Capulet ball the men in the cast are going to be asking women on stage to dance with them,” he added.
These components are missing in ordinary proscenium stage, which is the type of theater setup when the main part of the stage is framed.
With the late October performance dates, this version of “Romeo and Juliet” may also distinguish itself with a foreseeable presence of rain. However, this troupe knows performing outside carries inherent risks.
“Do you remember the blizzard last year?” Hasse asked, referring to the snowstorm last fall. “That was [during] our performance of ‘Macbeth.’”
The weather didn’t scare off the audience, though.
“We did it … and people showed up,” said Hasse. But he admitted that they stopped halfway through the performance for the actors’ safety.
The company has learned from the past, and continues to apply its knowledge to each performance.
“We built in coats to our wardrobe,” Hasse said about precautions taken to prevent a similar experience this year. “All the costumes have that additional layer if we need it.”
“Romeo and Juliet” will be the company’s fifth production. Performances will be in Washington Square Park on Oct. 27 at 1 and 4 p.m. and Oct. 28 at 3 p.m. For more information, see facebook.com/shakespeareinthesquare.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Oct. 18 print edition. Dylan Jarrett is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.
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