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Skidmore College

Shakespeare's greatest to be staged

July 11, 2014

The Saratoga Shakespeare Company (SSC), now in its second year of a formal partnership with Skidmore College, has scheduled two productions this summer.

The company’s main event will be Macbeth, to be staged July 15-27 in Congress Park. In addition, there will be a free outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 6 p.m. July 31 and Aug. 1 at Skidmore’s Thomas Amphitheater. The second production will feature interns, many of whom are enrolled in the SSC program through Skidmore, where they live and learn during the summer. The amphitheater is located between the Arthur Zankel Music Center and the Janet Kinghorn Bernhard Theater on the Skidmore campus.

A busy summer is precisely what Lary Opitz, artistic director of SSC and chair of Skidmore’s Theater Department, envisioned when the company aligned with Skidmore two years ago. “Eventually we’d like to have two fully mounted professional performances in the summer,” he said. The partnership between the college and the company allows qualified theater students to take credit-bearing classes and gain valuable experience working with the company.

This year, approximately two dozen interns are participating. Auden Thomas, director of summer academic programs and residencies in Skidmore’s Office of the Dean of Special Programs, said, “We’re pleased to again offer credit-bearing summer opportunities for students through this collaboration. It’s beneficial to Skidmore to utilize our facilities during the summer and provides a terrific opportunity to partner with a longstanding, popular community program.”       

Macbeth, one of the greatest tragedies ever written, is being presented in response to popular demand. According to Opitz, it is the one Shakespearean play most frequently requested by audiences (who are polled at every performance). “We’ve run out of comedies,” Opitz said. He added, “This is a time when so many popular films and TV shows are in the spirit of Shakespeare’s era. People are looking for new productions.”

David Girard directs the production, which features Tim Dugan, the company’s associate director, in the title role and Amy Prothro as Lady Macbeth. The show will be staged at 6 p.m. July 15-19 and 22-26, and at 3 p.m. July 20 and 27 on the Alfred Z. Solomon stage in Congress Park. Admission is free. Rain at performance time cancels the show. Girard directed last year’s Merry Wives of Windsor, which also featured Dugan and Prothro in key roles.

Regional print and broadcast journalist Bob Goepfert offered a highly positive review of Macbeth on WAMC-FM. Click here to listen.

Midsummer Night's Dream poster

Opitz sees the summer partnership between Skidmore and the SSC as a natural extension of the College’s continuing focus on the Bard. “We regularly teach acting Shakespeare,” he explained. “In 1996, we began a Shakespeare in London program that remains popular for theater majors. We have strong support from campus colleagues, such as the English Department. I think it would be hard to get more Shakespeare at any other liberal arts college in the country,” he added.  An additional attraction is the option for theater majors to earn Equity points for their work, which Opitz called a “distinctive” opportunity for an undergraduate, liberal arts college to offer. “Actors Equity has liaisons in major cities throughout the country and this year the Capital District became one of 27 in the Equity network, which provides a wider, deeper pool of talent,” Opitz said.

Barbara Opitz, executive director of SSC, explained that options for interns are rich. “They learn repertory, such as Macbeth and Midsummer Night’s Dream; they learn how to understudy; and they are able to take classes for academic credit, sometimes with Equity actors. The program has really blossomed.” A Valentine’s Day performance of A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters, staged to benefit the SSC; along with a presentation titled Shakespeare:  The Remix, performed during SaratogaArtsFest in June represented new initiatives this year to increase awareness of the company and its increased programming.

This year marks the 15th in the history of SSC. Lary Opitz remains enthusiastic about the company and the opportunities it offers. “This is the only professional theater company in Saratoga County, and it combines resources from several community arts organizations,” he said. “It is exciting to bring talented professional actors to perform in Saratoga.. We have developed a strong company of these actors, most of whom are drawn from the Capital District.” Typically, SSC performances draw about 6,000 audience members over the course of a season, demonstrating enthusiasm for the company’s offerings.

SSC presents Macbeth with support from Saratoga Arts through its Saratoga Program for the Arts funding, made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts; a J.M. McDonald Foundation Grant; and generous donations from its many supporters.

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