September, 2000 - The Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival has done it. After seven seasons of wandering about Harrisburg willy nilly, they have finally found an indoor venue that they can call home.
Though each summer the company uses the city’s Reservoir Park band shell to stage weekend performances during the month of June, indoor performances have been housed in number of different facilities, including The Old Waterworks Building and The State Museum. But after months of negotiations, hard work, and a fine production of "MacBeth," J. Clark Nicholson (Artistic Director) and his wife Melissa (Business Manager), feel comfortable calling the third floor of Strawberry Square Harrisburg’s new Globe Theatre.
August 27 marked the end of the Festival’s 2000 season. "MacBeth" — the second show of the summer and the first indoor production since a 1997 staging of "Hamlet" — was the perfect choice to christen their new home. The design team, along with Lynne Porter (Director) and Ron Zappille (Technical Director), took full advantage of its new venue. The set consisted of a mass of scaffolding (donated by Harsco) and a multi-shaded wood playing space, creating visual texture that enhanced the various levels of emotion and business in the play. The acting was, at times, powerful and, with few exceptions, consistent, including exceptional performances by Dan Burke, as the troubled king, and the trio of witches who enchanted every entrance. The emotional intensity played nicely in a small house, creating both intimacy and a sense of pending doom that served this production of the classic tragedy well. Porter made good choices across the board and the cast was comfortable in their space. Add to that countless sold-out shows and you have what seems to be a formula for success. And if this production of "MacBeth" is an indication of what’s to come — ‘double, double, toil and trouble…’ — there is a bright future for the Festival.
In an informal chat with Clark and Melissa Nicholson,MODE Weekly learned that being the new kid on the block hasn’t always been easy. "The first two years were tough. Lots of hard work and very little money," said Michelle. In fact, there were many times over the years that Clark Nicholson considered packing it up and moving on, but with a little patience and a great deal of energy, the company is beginning to reap the benefits of its hard work. The audience turn out, the growing respect throughout the community, and the support of The City of Harrisburg are all evidence that The Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival is doing something right.
What’s next for The Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival? In the off-season, the company will concentrate on their educational and community outreach programs, educating the community on the richness and timelessness of the works of the Bard. "Bard Senseless" performs short, usually comedic, sketches at a variety of venues, including locations such as street festivals (Arts Fest and the Kipona) and High School Auditoriums. In addition to doing Shakespeare, the actors and production company for the Festival also produce children’s theatre. Their children’s theatre, The Popcorn Hat Players, conducts a variety of classes, including "Theatre Basics," "Acting I and II," and "Performance." In conjunction with the classes, the players also do a number of plays open to the general public. A production of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" closed on August 19 and the next show, "Puss and Boots," opens September 20 and runs through October 7, with performances Wednesday and Thursday at 10:15 a.m. and Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Strawberry Square.
If you are interested in participating in classes, would like a private showing of either children’s theatre or Shakespeare, or are just curious about next summer’s production of "King John," you can contact either The Harrisburg Shakespeare Festival or The Popcorn Hat Players at 238-4111 or contact them via e-mail at [email protected]