Arts fans, theater buffs, Shakespeare aficionados and community members of all ages came together on the Great Lawn of Brookdale’s Lincroft campus this month for the 16th annual Summer Shakespeare Ensemble.
Despite occasional rain and thunderstorms, which impacted nearly half of the planned eight performances, the free, open-air series drew a total audience of nearly 500 between July 13 and July 23.
“The turnout was incredible,” said Brookdale theater professor John Bukovec, who directed this year’s series. “We had some ‘tempests,’ as Shakespeare would say, but the weather eventually cleared and we had some great nights of theater. The response we had from our audiences was just tremendous.”
Following 15 years of cycling through the Bard’s catalogue, including familiar favorites like “Macbeth” and lesser known works like last year’s “Measure for Measure,” this year’s ensemble returned to one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The play, which follows four interconnected storylines centered on the marriage between Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta, remains a fan favorite, Bukovec said.
“This was our first repeat, and people continue to respond to it. People always respond to it. I think it’s a laugh thing,” he said.
“I heard from someone last night who said she came to the show for the first time with her daughter, and that they both loved it. They loved the play, the actors, the costumes – and that’s what I love. The core concept behind this series has always been giving the students something that is outside of the norm, and making Shakespeare accessible for everyone.”
The 2017 Summer Shakespeare Ensemble included a cast of 20 local actors, Brookdale theater students and alumni from Cliffwood Beach, East Brunswick, Freehold, Hazlet, Little Silver, Long Branch, Manalapan, Matawan, Middletown, Millstone Township, Monroe, Oceanport, Ocean Grove and Red Bank. Costumes and sets were also designed by students, volunteers and faculty.
Members of the Brookdale Theater Club were on hand at each performance to sell refreshments and raise money for future programming.
Check out more photos from A Midsummer Night’s Dream here.