By Tara Bradway
You may be so fortunate as to live right here in the Adirondacks, or you may be so fortunate as to get to vacation here each year, or you may be so fortunate as to have your first Adirondack adventure in your future. No matter which, you may or may not be so fortunate as to have been introduced to the Adirondack Shakespeare Company yet.
Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Tara Bradway, the Artistic Director and Co-Founder of the company. I’ve been so fortunate as to helm this pretty amazing ship with my partner in crime and in life, Patrick Siler, who is the company’s Executive Director (and other Co-Founder).
Now, you maybe saw the name “Shakespeare” and had a little reaction. (I do all the time, but my reaction is one of joy. I realize not everyone reacts the same way.) Maybe you read some of his plays in high school. Maybe you had a great teacher. Maybe not. Maybe you’ve seen a movie or two. Maybe they were great. Maybe not. Maybe you’ve even been to see a production at the theater. Maybe it was terrible. Maybe not. It’s hard to live in today’s world without some exposure to the Bard, and for many people it’s not in their top five life experiences.
We’re here to change that.
For one thing, we don’t do Shakespeare the way anyone else does. Our cast of fully professional actors arrives here in the Adirondacks fully memorized and ready to dive into twelve to fifteen hours of rehearsal for each production. We don’t worry about sets or fancy costumes or props. It’s all about nailing the language. The actors don’t have anything else in the way of being present with each other and with you, our audience. Even lights. We perform with the lights up, and we’ll actually talk to you. (It’s even ok if you want to talk back!) With everyone on the edge of their seats, it’s impossible not to feel electrified in each performance.
ADK Shakespeare has been around officially since 2010, although we began producing as a project called “Shakespeare IN THE RAW” in 2008. Our first summer festival was held in Schroon Lake in 2010, and we have happily called Schroon home for the last six years. Our home space is the Scaroon Manor Amphitheater on the west shore of Schroon Lake, and let me tell you this is an incredibly special place. The Amphitheater is the only remaining structure of Scaroon Manor, which is now a campground and day-use facility owned by New York State and administered by the Department of Environmental Conservation. ADK Shakespeare is a Steward of the Scaroon Manor Amphitheater — a beautiful stone amphitheater modeled on the Hollywood Bowl but ravaged by over 60 years of Adirondack winters. It is one of the company’s goals to see this space revitalized, with new seating and weather cover. Last year, we were thrilled to have the stage resurfaced!
Since our first official season as Adirondack Shakespeare Company in 2010, we have produced more than half of Shakespeare’s canon. We are on track to completing the entire canon by 2020. As far as we can tell, that’s faster than any other company in the world has produced the full canon for the first time. Some other fun facts:
We have decided to produce Hamlet every year. Other theaters offer A Christmas Carol every year, or ballet companies produce The Nutcracker … we thought one of the greatest plays (and ghost stories) in the English language deserved an annual spin. Every Hamlet is different, so everyHamlet will be different too.
We have produced Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3 twice, but have yet to do a full production of Much Ado About Nothing (coming this summer!).
Our productions are uncut. That’s right, every word is there. Although there are (for many of Shakespeare’s plays) multiple texts, we favor the First Folio. We compile a script using the First Folio as the basis, and sometimes make changes based on what appears in a First or Second Quarto, or Second Folio. Actors are encouraged to research changes and make decisions about word choices too. Once we’ve arrived at this script, though, we are going for 100% of those words. And if you can believe it, an uncut Hamlet can and should run just under three hours. That’s right. Come check it out this fall!
So, that’s Adirondack Shakespeare Company in a nutshell. If you really want to get a sense of our spirit, though, I have a little story to share with you about our most recent season. Maybe you even heard a piece of it in the newspaper, on the radio, online, or from someone you know. On the first day of our Autumn Season when the cast was arriving from New York City and beyond, a car full of our beloved actors was struck head-on by another driver. (Thankfully, no one was killed.) Four of actors were taken to Glens Falls Hospital for their injuries and were released several hours later, but one was airlifted to Albany Medical Center with a skull fracture. We, needless to say, were frantic.
Two surgeries and two hospital stints later, Sean Lounsbury was released and has since been working towards a miraculous full recovery. He’s back to New York City, back to work, and as of January 17, back on stage — appearing in a very special remount of this autumn’s production of Hamlet, in which of course he was not able to take part. (You can see him back on the Adirondack stage in just a few weeks as Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice, and reappearing as Flint in Songs of the Iroquois: Turtle Island. He’s also taking on Hamlet himself this coming autumn, so he is indeed back with a vengeance!)
In the tumultuous days following the accident, the cast held each other close and supported each other. We were also grateful for the incredible support of our community in and around Schroon Lake. At first we couldn’t imagine climbing into cars, driving to rehearsal, putting up a play. But as we began to heal from the trauma, the art began to feel important and even necessary. We were not going to let the chaos keep us down. Slowly, we started rehearsing — at first at the house, and soon at the nearby Tannery Pond Community Center. And through all the tumult and turmoil, we somehow managed just nine days after this accident to open The Winter’s Tale and then the very next day to open Hamlet. Nothing else I can think of gets to the heart and soul of this company and the extraordinary people we have gathered than this story right here.
If you’d like to get to know us a little better, come out to catch a show this April, this summer, or this autumn. This spring, we are producing The Merchant of Venice (for the third time), Julius Caesar (for the first time), and our original play Songs of the Iroquois: Turtle Island. Later this year you can expectThe Comedy of Errors and Much Ado About Nothing, as well as the return of our annual Hamlet in the autumn playing in repertory with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
This piece originally appeared on the Schroon Lake Region Facebook Page.