In July, Delaware Shakespeare will again welcome audiences to its summer venue, the beautiful 72-acre Rockwood Park in North Wilmington. Rather than its accustomed run of one Shakespeare play, this year the troupe is offering three different presentations.
The Del Shakes Summer Festival opens with Midsummer Mix Tape (July 16-August 1), a performance that features scenes from past (and future) productions along with original music (always a part of the troupe’s shows). Some of the music showcased will be from the company’s pandemic-delayed bilingual musical setting of The Tempest, now slated for summer 2022. Midsummer Mix Tape is directed by David Stradley, with musical direction by Alexis Ward. Featured are tunes written by Del Shakes regular composers Michael Hahn, Liz Filios, Emily Schuman, and Joe Trainor, and the regional cast of five actors includes Newton Buchanan, Jared Calhoun, Kristin Devine, Jessica Money, and Izzy Sazak.
Next to open is Rosalind x 3 (July 22 and 29), a multifaceted look at the heroine of the romantic comedy As You Like It. Rosalind is a beloved bucket list role for Shakespearean performers, and the play has some of the Bard’s most beautiful lyric poetry. Here, three actor/director pairs take a closer look at this famous character and sync it with their experiences.
The play follows Rosalind as she flees to the Forest of Arden disguised as a boy. Del Shakes produced this play in 2017, and the work continues to resonate with Bi Jean Ngo who played Celia (Rosalind’s cousin). Of Rosalind x 3, Ngo says, “We’re all different sizes and shapes. We’re all different colors. We’re all different. And we’re all doing this right because we’re doing it in a way that’s specific to us, making these words real and meaningful.” The multicultural six-member company includes actors Lexi Thammavong, Rachel O’Hanlon Rodriguez, and Satchel Williams along with directors Ngo, Mariah Ghant, and Tanaquil Márquez.
For the Festival’s third component, the company is offering a Shakespeare Poetry Slam (July 23 and 30). Taking flight from a quote in The Tempest, “I’ll teach you how to flow," this production features spoken word and hip-hop artists as they seek and find inspiration and connections to the Bard. Audiences may be surprised how much similarity there is in the rhythm, wordplay, and metaphor of this contemporary poetic form and that of the Elizabethan age. The Poetry Slam explores their remarkably similar poetic energy and vibrancy in a production produced and curated by poet and spoken-word artist Anthem.
While the company was able to present small offerings throughout the grounds of Rockwood last summer, Delaware Shakespeare’s producing artistic director David Stradley is enthusiastic about this year’s triple bill. “We’re thrilled to bring back audiences in larger numbers than we were able to do in 2020. We’re also excited to offer multiple programs for the first time in our Summer Festival’s history.” It’s Stradley’s hope that the three events, “particularly Rosalind x 3 and Shakespeare Poetry Slam,” give people a different perspective on both the Bard and this company’s work.
Discounts are available for two- and three-performance packages. Rockwood Park is located in north Wilmington, just off of I-95. Its historic, expansive grounds accommodate picnics and programs like these that easily allow social distancing for both performers and audiences alike.
What, When, Where
Delaware Shakespeare Summer Festival. Midsummer Mix Tape (July 16-August 1); Rosalind X 3 (July 22 and 29); Shakespeare Poetry Slam (July 23 and 30). Performances are live and run 60 to 75 minutes. The performances are pay-what-you-decide. Rockwood Park, 4651 Washington Street Extension, Wilmington DE. Call 302-468-4890 or visit delshakes.org for tickets.
Rockwood Park grounds are wheelchair accessible and there is free parking. Social distancing and COVID protocols will be in accordance with current State of Delaware stipulations. Grounds open 60 minutes prior to the show. General admission seating, bring lawn chairs, or blankets. Picnics are welcome; concessions for food and drinks are available.