Saratoga Shakespeare returns to Congress Park

When summer comes to Saratoga, so does Shakespeare. Until the premiere of the local theater company, Saratoga Shakespeare's, first performance in mid-July, it's not uncommon to hear some of the renowned playwright's most famous works belted for all of Congress Park to hear and see, as the troupe rehearses for the summer's production.

Known for its unique outdoor theater experience, which director and a founder of the 10-year-old company Will Farlay said goes perfectly with the very essence of Shakespeare, the troupe has become a cultural mainstay in the area and a much-anticipated sign that summer has arrived.

Most cultural places have a summer Shakespeare festival or company that performs and we just thought there was a need for free Shakespeare here in Saratoga, said Farlay. "We decided we didn't want to do community theater, we wanted a professional theater company, so we bring actors from Chicago, L.A., Boston, New York City and sometimes local people."

This year's production is "Hamlet," a special play for the company because it's the first non-comedy it has ever performed, said Farlay, and is also one of Shakespeare' biggest plays. While Farlay is fond of putting a twist on the traditional stories, like turning "As You Like It" into a western lip sync musical, he's kept Hamlet a fairly period piece.

"Because I consider it such a beautiful piece of literature, I'm keeping it traditional and moving it just a little bit in terms of period, but I doubt anyone would even know," said Farlay.

Saratoga Shakespeare prides itself on making the playwright's work accessible to everyone, said Farley. While it's sometimes construed as confusing or difficult to relate to, Farlay said that's far from how it should be.

"Shakespeare is very versatile. The language is so strong and I think that's why a lot of people think they won't understand it. But that's also why you can do a lot with it and the messages are universal messages you can update," said Farlay. "The average theatergoer can come into our park to see a play and relate. We have Shakespeare scholars to track workers who don't even speak English, and they both enjoy the plays because they're highly physical and told very well."

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