Muskingum Park to host festival

MARIETTA – “Loves Labours Lost” will open the Shakespeare on the River Festival 8 p.m. Friday at the gazebo in Muskingum Park.

Five more shows will follow through the next week.

The festival is a production with other theaters, said Hunt Brawley, developmental director for the Hippodrome/Colony Historical Theatre Association.

“It’s the first time we’ve tried to mobilize our theater resources,” he said. “It’s kind of a cool production.”

The play uses resources from the association, Mid-Ohio Valley Players and Marietta College.

Assistant Director Kevin Paskawych said actors are from a variety of places.

“Half are MOVP, Actors Guild and half are student actors from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Marietta and Georgia,” Paskawych said. “We basically held professional auditions in Pittsburgh and Marietta. Students are from Point Park, Denison, Youngstown State, Marietta College and others. It has been an adventure.”

Director Geoff Coward said this production is different from what many have seen.

“It’s free Shakespeare in the park, ala New York City,” he said. “We were originally going to do two and decided not to be as ambitious.”

Coward said the majority of the actors are college-age, and there are eight to nine local actors.

“There are two groups of people: the main characters and the comic characters,” he said. “The local people are taking the comic characters.”

George Litman is one of the locals excited to be doing open air theater with a diverse cast.

“I think it’s going to be something magical,” he said.

Litman’s character is Professor Holofernes, the schoolmaster of Navarre, where the play takes place.

“He considers himself a diamond around the thorny roses,” said Litman. “He’s the most haughty, overbearing and crass of the rural people.”

He said one thing about the play is especially fun.

“The best part about it is creating your character as you go along,” he said. “Which is really a lot of fun.”

Brittney Grant, 23, of Youngstown was cast in the role of Katherine.

“She’s one of the French court, one of the ladies that follow the princess,” Grant said. “She’s the love interest of Dumaine (one of the lords).”

She said she’s been enjoying her experience and changing her character.

“It’s going good,” she said. “(Geoff) cut the script a bit; originally Katherine would have been played differently. Geoff and I decided to play her a little more dumb…I tried something (Sunday) and the cast just died of laughter.”

Christopher Williams, 20, came from Atlanta to audition.

“I was still at the university looking for something to keep me busy in the summer,” he said. “I got incredibly excited because I do love Shakespeare.”

Williams’ character is the obnoxious Lord Longaville.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I find myself being the smart aleck of the group. (Longaville) likes the king, but he also thinks the king’s an idiot.”

He said he’s enjoying his experience in Marietta.

“The town is really nice,” he said. “It’s very, very pretty. There’s water nearby, which makes me very happy.”

One thing the audience shouldn’t expect to see is a long, drawn out affair.

“It’s a really complex (play),” said Coward. “I said, ‘Let’s try to make it more accessible to the audience.’ I adapted it down to a couple hours. It usually runs about three. Todd (Burge) created the music for (the librettos) to be sung.”

Litman said the production is going to be something to see and remember.

“It’s an exciting time,” he said. “It’s stepping into something backwards, blindfolded and in Mandarin Chinese. These (actors), I’ve seen them in several rehearsals and I tell you it’s going to be something Marietta’s not going to forget.”