12 Angry Men (Jurors)
by Gerald L. Pepper
Directed by L. Robert Johnson
In the spring of 1993, Johnson returned to producing with his fledgling company and for their second outing. Only this time not with a Shakespeare, but with a modern classic, the updated version of 12 Angry Men (Jurors). Johnson initially decided to divide up the outdoor Shakespeare with any modern pieces produced in the indoor season. While effectively the same company, indoor shows were produced under the banner of the Patchwork Players. This production was also a first in its choice of venue - The Miller Branch of the Jersey City Library. In what would become a long standing relationship in producing shows with this city agency, the production ran over two weekends in April 1993. One of the departures that the show took that set it aside from past area productions, was its use of multi-ethnic casting. A feature that would become a staple of future Hudson Shakespeare productions. Its most notable change was of the "racist" juror. A women instead of a male character (Elaine Enright), played the disillusioned juror who goes on a tirade about "those people" in the second act. Casting racial and bigoted assumptions based on nothing more that how she saw the world. This simple casting shift displayed how these narrow minded sentiments and categorizing can touch and affect anyone and displays the timelessness of the piece.
Nelson Akeredolu, Denise Cintron, Elaine Enright, Beatriz Esteban-Messina, Joesph Fedor, Jon Fernandez, Andy Foley, Fran Giannini, Nannie Kaps, Frank Monte-Magno, Mark A. Nakota, LaVaghn Slaven, Victoria Steele, Kenneth Mintz
Miller Branch, Jersey City Library, Jersey City, NJ
Driving Miss Daisy
by Alfred Uhry
Directed by Demitra Papadinis
Following up on the premier showing at the Miller Branch of the Jersey City Library. HSC quickly followed up with another library show. This production was held at the 5 Corners Library theater. A space with a large auditorium, full lighting and more conducive to staging large productions. Now that the company was beginning to grow, new directors were in need. As is still customary today, perspective directors usually appeared as actors in previous productions and/or or through working with company members in outside shows. HSC had begun under the premise of trying new and untried things. With this in mind, we have since prided ourselves on giving first time or new directors a chance to get that much needed experience. Such was the case with the company's first new directors Demitra Papadinis, Joesph Fedor & Denise Cintron. Demitra had worked with Johnson and several other company members in New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players and was looking for a chance to spread her directing wings.
After the 12 Angry Jurors production, the Jersey City Library system asked HSC to produce a show for a special seniors program. Demitra choose a title that was very near to her and in vogue at the time due to the Morgan Freeman/Jessica Tandy film. The show premiered in June 1993 and employed a black box staging style that included pantomiming most scenes. Instead of elaborate sets or props and to economize for a fledgling traveling company, the production employed focused lighting to solely illuminate the actors as they mimed actions such as driving or cooking. Under scored with period music, the production took on a Tennessee Williams feel following the interesting relationship of an elderly southern lady and her African-American chauffer. The show continued at the 5 Corners Library Theater and was then taken on the road to the Grand Lobby of the historic Lowe's theater on Journal Square in Jersey City.
Taming of the Shrew
by William Shakespeare
Directed by L. Robert Johnson
"Asses are made to bear and so are you"
As summer rolled about again, the parks and Shakespeare called once again and now with three shows under it's belt, the Hudson Shakespeare Company was ready to take on the task of producing both outdoor Shakespeare and modern pieces for venues in Jersey City. Following up on his successful take on a classic Shakespeare comedy, the company's founder L. Robert Johnson decided to direct another of the bard's well known works, Taming of the Shrew. Bringing back several of the previous year's players as well as newcomers to the company and some new to theater, he produced the show for a brief run at Hamilton Park in June 1993. Once again he employed the practice of rehearsing outdoors. Knowing that no matter how good the actor, unless they were used to performing in such surroundings and adjusted themselves vocally to meet the challenges of open air venues, the performances and shows would fall flat.
Johnson's philosophy on this play was first and foremost not to let Katherine look like a victim or a caricature. He had seen several productions where either device was employed or fell to something in between and strove to have his Kate portrayed as a very human person in this over the top setting. The shrew was indeed a victim of her father's favoritism who had to be shown that her railing in the end was just alienating her from life and happy marriage. Petruchio, the foil to her ways, had to be convincingly despotic, while subtly pointing out Kate's faults. His notes for the remainder of the cast were straight forward as well, have fun with what you're doing, but work, work, work. After all drama is easy, comedy is hard.
The show premiered with a little larger fanfare than the previous year attracting a larger gathering as well. Once again, the show was seen at Hamilton Park and audiences were very receptive to the outdoor showings. The park was beginning to get a reputation as the place where Shakespeare could be found. Not only because of the performances, but many of the audience members were passersby who had seen the company rehearsing the play. Cast members had come to expect small throngs of people viewing their unfinished work and a workshop type atmosphere ensued. They knew if something either worked or didn't often prior to the opening because of reaction or comments by their daily audience.
As Shrew, rehearsed and finally drew to a close, Johnson pondered on what would become another trademark HSC practice, thinking outside the box theatrically. While many had scoffed at the idea of producing any outdoor shows, let alone Shakespeare, Johnson had decided to add another show for their second season, which would expand further into Jersey City and into neighboring Hoboken.
Waiting for Godot
By Samuel Beckett
Directed by Joesph Fedor
What began as a crazy idea of producing a rather intellectual play for a summer audience became the fourth and final show of 1993 and one of the company's more landmark productions. 'Godot' had always been a favorite of L. Robert Johnson, however, he knew of no one in the immediate Hudson County theatrical community that had either done it or were considering doing the show. While speaking about the show with New York Gilbert & Sullivan Player associates, and fellow HSC members Joe Fedor & Denise Cintron, the three decided to try it and see what occurred. This attitude lead to the first time of HSC performing at other park venues in Jersey City, notable Grundy Pier, with a near up close view of Manhattan and expanding to county level parks such as Lincoln Park and Braddock Park in North Bergen. Also, continuing with its association the Jersey City Library, the show was produced in association with their Community Awareness Series.
The show also marked the first venture into a neighboring area and what has become it's second mainstay area. Hoboken, NJ was just entering into the arts scene in the early 1990's and seemed very open to new and interesting entertainment. Aside from musical concerts, the community was also lacking in outdoor theater as well. Again, going against the grain, HSC booked several shows in Hoboken and continued to break the taboo of just staying within your originating community. Audiences wanted shows and HSC would provide them. While Taming of the Shrew ran in performance, Waiting for Godot rehearsed. The show premiered in July 1993 in Hoboken and was well received by attending audiences.
Lincoln Park - Jersey City, NJ
Grundy Pier, Jersey City, NJ
Braddock Park - North Bergen, NJ
Church Square Park - Hoboken, NJ
by Bill C. Davies
Directed by Denise Cintron
Looking ever for new and interesting venues and untried material, HSC's ventured next into the churches Grace Van Vorst Evangelical Church in Jersey City had been seeking to produce live theater in either their community space or church sancturary. Operations directors Denise Cintron and Joe Fedor, and L. Robert Johnson decided to produce a show that had recently received great acclaim and something that could utilize the environs of the church. The show selected was Mass Appeal, the two person comedy, dealing with a clash of styles and wits between a button down, by the book, older priest and his young, risky counterpart in order to drum business at a failing church. Grace Van Vorst had just what the production needed, a large sanctuary with suitable stain glass and crosses to create the play's atmosphere, along with the natural theaters that churches create. The show opened with a short run at Grace Van Vorst and was then quickly taken on the road. One of the stops was another unique location looking to stage productions - The Hoboken City Courtroom. In what has become a staple site for HSC, the Hoboken Courtroom with its ornate architecture and dark wood detailing, suited the church setting as well.
Up until this time, HSC had been progressing along almost uninterrupted since A Mid Summer Night's Dream and what was considered then a break neck production pace. Johnson and company decided to take the next year off, working with other area companies networking with other community organizations interested in staging plays and reshaping the company's focus.
Grace Van Vorst Evangelical Church, Jersey City, NJ
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