Croton Teen Theatre Takes To The Outdoor Stage

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From left, members of the cast of Croton Teen Theatre's "Macbeth" are Olivia Cote, Anna Markowitz, Cassie Samuels and Melissa Shawcross. Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza

CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – The Croton Teen Theatre's outdoor performance of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" brings a king's dark intentions into the summer sun, Saturday and Sunday at Vassallo Park, on Old Post Road South.

This abridged version of Shakespeare's linguistically economical play centers on a ruthlessly ambitious Scottish king and his conniving wife, as the pair challenge the king's prophesied fate.

Admission is free, although donations are requested, for Saturday's 11 a.m. show and Sunday's 3 p.m. show. Run time is one hour and 50 minutes, with an intermission.

"The kids in this program are freakishly interested in Shakespeare," said director Tom Berger, who chose the play. "Macbeth," with the theater program's production of Stephen Sondheim's musical "Company," represents four weeks packed with rehearsals for actors and directors alike.

Plastic swords in hand, and Lady Macbeth with a prosthetic, although convincing, baby bump, the cast begins a rehearsal Friday afternoon. At 2 p.m., the temperature is 87 degrees with 55 percent humidity. The shade is sticky even without the hooded capes and repurposed suit jackets the 11 cast members are wearing.

Rehearsal runs from 2 to 5 p.m. for those in the play, followed by musical rehearsal from 6 to 10 p.m. Director and actors agree, the tightly packed four-week schedule mimics the time crunch in professional theater.  

"That we don't have everything until the very last day is a little intimidating," said Melissa Shawcross, 16. Actors worked with booming sound effects for the first time Friday, in preparation for Saturday's show. Berger briefed the group on what do in case of thunderstorms, or as Berger facetiously refers to them, the "magic of outdoor theater."

This is Berger's last year, after seven, working with the company. He is relocating to Colorado to continue working in educational theater. "It's a little emotional," he said, shying away from telling the kids. Berger said he has trained many branches of the same family tree, and often teaches actors from high school through college.

Although the Croton Teen Theatre has many familiar faces, and it celebrates its 25th year this summer, enrollment for the summer of 2012 has dropped. A resource-intensive production of "My Fair Lady" in the summer of 2011 kept the theater on a tight budget in 2012. Berger is paid to direct "Company," but receives no remuneration for coaching the repertory play.

"Company" is the theater program's biggest source of funds in the summer, aside from program tuition. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Show times are Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Croton-Harmon High School.

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