By Holli Harms

There are many forms of theatre festivals currently happening online and The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s Reading Series is stepping up with their annual reading series of new plays. The three plays are all based on classics. SEIZE THE KING /Written by Will Power (The Seven) and Directed by Jesse J. Perez (Informed Consent), is a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Richard III. PARADISE LOST, Written by Erin Shields (If We Were Birds), directed by Sara Holdren (Twelfth Night, Two River Theater) and starring Nance Williamson as Satan, is a new version of Milton’s classic poem by the same title; and UNTITLED AGATHA PROJECT, written by Heidi Armbruster (Mrs. Christie, Dorset Theater Festival), directed by Lavina Jadhwani (As You Like It, Guthrie Theater), is based on the Agatha Christie classic novels.

All three will be presented on Vimeo free of charge with a suggested donation.

It is such an important part of a new play’s emergence to have a reading of it, for the playwright to hear it and get a sense of how it flows. And usually to hear how the audience responds to it. In this time of COVID, the reaction of the audience is a luxury the playwright must forgo. But they do get the response of the performers as they work on the piece, the questions in the rehearsal(s) about character, story, and action that further inform the writer. Being a writer, as we all know, is solitary work. It is an exercise in patience. Readings help further the play, but also give the writer the collaboration that is the art of theater and that they at some point crave desperately.

The Hudson Valley Shakespeare has been doing all they can for the playwrights and performers in this global pandemic. I was lucky enough to find out about their Bake Off which challenged writers to write short pieces based on a list of words (ingredients) about the Hudson River. They had online workshops discussing writing and the river, and it was a great way to bring together a community of writers both established and new to the world of writing.

They have one more reading coming up this Thursday, August 27th, the Agatha Christie piece. I watched Paradise Lost and must say that they are doing so well working with the limitations that online brings. It was primo acting and directing and honestly, they had lighting and set design.

Hats off to all like the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival who are doing all they can to continue to serve the theatrical community and keep making art.

(Davis McCallum, Artistic Director; Kate Liberman, Managing Director) Founded in 1987, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF) is a critically acclaimed, professional, non-profit theater company based in Garrison, NY, one-hour north of Manhattan.

This summer the popular developmental reading series will be presented online with live performances, available to watch on Vimeo. This year’s online performances will be free, with a suggested donation of $20 per viewer. For more information and to register for a performance go HERE