Shakespeare & the Brave New World in Queens
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Dec 15, 2015 | 7616 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo Credit: Provenance Online Project
Photo Credit: Provenance Online Project
Shakespeare has come to Queens. Nearly four hundred years after his death, the famous playwright’s works are still being read throughout the world. And with a recent partnership between Titan Theatre Company and Queens Library, Queens residents can now listen to the entire Shakespeare canon as part of a new “Shakespeare in Queens” program. Yes, they are reading every single work, even those that aren’t done.

The program will allow 10 to 15 Titan Theatre Company actors to have staged readings. The company, which started in 2009 at a Tex-Mex bar, The Creek and The Cave in Long Island City, specializes in Shakespearean plays. Queens Library is the largest public library system in the country, and the project will take about three years to complete. Also worth noting, every reading is free to the public.

Karen Vermut, a rep for Queens Library spoke of the success of “Shakespeare in Queens.”

“We’ve had over 50 people attend each of our readings, which is remarkable for 5:30 p.m. on a Monday,” Vermut said. “It’s been 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, but our partnership with TITAN has proven that his work is still vital and engaging.”

Lenny Banovez, artistic director of Titan Theatre Company, wanted to create an outreach program, and came up with the unique idea of producing one reading per month, making visits to dozens Queens libraries. Performing at the libraries gave the company a chance to tackle the pieces on an academic standpoint. In turn, they are able to give a more pure reading of the plays.

“We have had amazing turnouts with people who usually don’t see theater,” Banovez said.

Titan Theatre Company has already completed three readings to round out the 2015 schedule, including Much Ado About Nothing at the Forest Hills branch, Othello at the Central Library branch and Merchant of Venice at the Flushing branch.

“All they’re doing is reading from behind a music stand,” he explained. “During Othello there weren’t any props, they had an empty hand, and when Iago stabs Emilia, the audience starts gasping.”

“There are no knives, it’s just reading,” he added. “Even when Iago says some crazy stuff, people are going ‘I can’t believe he said that,’ so it’s something that we’re already proud of and it’s only three months into the three-year process.”

The next scheduled reading is the famous play Anthony and Cleopatra. The tragedy, most likely performed in 1607, follows the Roman Emperor Mark Anthony who falls in love with one of Shakespeare’s most complex female characters, Cleopatra, the Queen of the Nile. Themes of betrayal and ambivalence is laced with the representation of the role of gender as well as cross dressing and power dynamics. The reading will take place at the Woodside branch, at 54-22 Skillman Avenue, on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.

Beyond the readings, members of Titan will also host discussions about Shakespeare’s works. Banovez will host the very first discussion entitled “Talking Shakespeare” on Monday, Jan. 11 in the Flushing branch at 41-17 Main Street. There, he will discuss the modern interpretations of the readings performed thus far.

After the community listens to the readings over the next three years, Titan will turn over the opportunity to create a show based upon what reading appealed to the community the most. The community will cast their votes, and whichever play receives the highest number of support will be the added to the company’s season.

Just a year after Titan Theatre Company became the resident theatre company at Queens Theatre, the young company is certainly making more waves in the borough with “Shakespeare in Queens.”
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