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Classical Theatre of Harlem stages Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer’ final performance on July 30

7/29/2013, 2:16 p.m.

William Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," produced the Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) and Producing Artistic Director Ty Jones, will have its final performance on Tuesday, July 30 in Marcus Garvey Park. The acclaimed show, called “as fresh as country lemonade, with its smart casting” by The New York Times, is directed by CTH Artistic Associate and Oberlin College professor of theater and Africana studies Justin Emeka. The show, which runs Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. (except on Fridays, when the play begins at 8:30 p.m. after a performance by Jazzmobile), is made possible by the Ford Foundation.

Emeka weaves Harlem’s artistic legacy and other traditions of the African Diaspora into Shakespeare’s classic text, infusing it with music, dance and various traditions from the African Diaspora to present an enchanted concrete jungle inhabited by spirits who revel in the magical nature of summer love. Theseus, the duke of Harlem, prepares to unite two hemispheres with his marriage to Hippolyta, the African queen. Meanwhile, four Harlem lovers pursue forbidden romance by escaping to the woods, where a group of Harlem’s working class—aka the “rude mechanicals”—rehearse a “classic” performance with which to entertain the duke on his wedding night in hopes of fame and fortune. Colorful West African and Capoeira dance elements are incorporated into the production, which also boasts a timely same-sex marriage angle; the maiden Hermia loves not the original male character Lysander, but the female Lysandra.

“I wanted to incorporate into the work the issue of marriage equality, one that Black and Brown people continue to struggle with, and to give the audience another way to come to terms with Hermia’s father demanding her death for not marrying his choice, Demetrius,” said Emeka.

The professional theater company—the only year-round theater company in Harlem on an Actor’s Equity Association League of Resident Theaters contract—specializes in making the classics accessible to the masses. They hope to make its Shakespeare in the Park a yearly cultural event in Harlem and to entice the regular theater crowd to experience uptown culture and cuisine.

“The community will be delighted to see itself reflected in the many wonderful characters in this production,” said Jones. “We hope the show will serve as a vehicle to celebrate Harlem and to help build its institutions and establishments.”

Cast members include Michael Early (Theseus/Oberon), Zainab Jah (Hippolyta/Titania), Sheldon Best (Puck), Halle Morse (Hermia), Ito Aghayere (Lysandra), Matthew Harris (Demetrius), Jamie Rezanour (Helena), Keith R. Oliver (Robin Starveling), Anthony Vaughn Merchant (Bottom), Tim Johnson (Quince), Kambi Gathesha (Snout), Kalon Hayward (Flute), Anthony Lalor (Egeus/Snug), Jaylene Clark (Peaseblossom/Dancer), Mayaa Boateng (Cobweb/Dancer), Akilah Walker(Mote/Dancer), Erica Camarano (Mustardseed/Dancer), Daisy Peele(Fairy/Dancer) and Mark Blanchard (African boy). Lakai Worell is the choreographer, Anka Lupes is the set designer, Paul Hudson is the lighting designer and Rachel Dozier-Ezell is the costume designer. Music is by Michael Wimberly.

The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater is located in Marcus Garvey Park, Fifth Avenue between 122nd and 124th streets. The venue opens for seating for the free nightly shows at 7:00 p.m. For more information, call 347-688-6304 or visit www.classicaltheatreofharlem.org.