Outside of a traditional theater setting, a righteous reimagining of Shakespeare will play out, and young directors will shine through bringing a classic children’s character to life.
The Classic Theater Guild Inc. and Indian Ladder Farms are teaming up again for The 2014 Helderberg Theater Festival, which will be held outdoors at the farm from July 17 to 27. This year’s offerings are similar to last year, with a traditional family show, “Pinocchio,” and a Shakespeare piece, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” All of the outdoor theater performances are free, and attendees are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets.
“We do this as a free festival dedicated to the public for some family entertainment,” said Amanda Stankavich, President of the Classic Theater Guild. “It is a great chance for people to spend some time outdoors enjoying theater and the landscape of the area.”
Holding performances outside of a traditional setting does hold its own challenges, but Stankavich feels it adds to the environment of productions. This year, there will be a tent set up for performances.
“It is a different feeling when pulling it out of the theater and getting outside, instead of being in an enclosed space,” said Stankavich. “It is always challenging doing outdoors theater because you don’t know what the weather is going to be, and you have to go through the motions of doing a show.”
The Classic Theater Guild was started in 2003 and originally performed shows at the Hilton Center in Albany before finding its permanent home at Proctors in Schenectady.
Stankavich said holding the festival at the New Scotland farm also helps the organization connect with people who might not attend its shows in Schenectady.
“They have been very flexible with accommodating us to use their spaces outdoors and barns to put on shows,” she said. “We have a lot of involvement with that community, so that has been successful combination between the two.”
The involvement of youth directors is taken to a new level this year, with three Voorheesville High School students presenting “Pinocchio” under the guidance of Steve Suriano, a teacher at the school.
The three student directors — Stefanie DeFronzo, Jaynie Parmenter and Noah Robinson — are guiding the cast, who are all 16-years old and younger.
“I think that it was a good idea to have younger people take over directing,” said DeFronzo. “I know that our show will be equivalent to previous shows the festival has put on.”
Parmenter said the experience has been “great,” with the trio previously taking on smaller directing roles at the middle school. The cast also has kids from outside Voorheesville, which include students from Bethlehem, Guilderland, Colonie and Albany school districts.
“Getting to know the cast is really cool,” said Parmenter. “Before this, we didn’t really know a lot them.”
The students’ performance includes an original song for the play, with other elements added into the production.
Suriano has been “very, very impressed” with the student directors and believes it’s providing them with an important learning experience.
“I think they are seeing some of the difficulties of directing,” he said, “and I think they are seeing some the details they didn’t realize went into it.
At the spectrum of experience, local theater veteran Tony Pallone offers his own take on William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” through adding a 1980s touch.
Pallone choose the time period because he believes it’s an era people when people where exploring and living inside their dreams, which is similar to the characters in the play.
Pallone’s version has an exclusive clique run by the powerful elite clashing with the worker class beneath them trying to break in. Bridging the two classes is a dream-world representation of the same characters, which allows for new identities to be forged that has the power to turn the real world upside down. The mischievous character Puck is portrayed as a punk-rock icon rejecting authority and disrupting the balance of power.
Stankavich believes the revamped take on Shakespeare allows the play to be more relatable.
“Shakespeare is always tricky as far as understanding it,” she said, “and I think the more directors and actors can make it easier to understand, the more the audience enjoys it.”
The last day of the festival on Saturday, Aug. 2, both productions will performed at Proctors’ Fenimore Gallery. These performances are being used as a fundraiser for the Theater Guild, and tickets cost $17.50 per person. This is the only showing that isn’t free.
For information on show dates and times, visit www.classictheaterguild.com or call the Classic Theater Guild at 387-9150.