A group of local actors are mounting an afternoon of free Shakespeare in Memorial Park this weekend. The event, “Sonnets, Scenes, and Soliloquies,” will present the actors’ favorite scenes and speeches from Shakespeare’s work in Memorial Park (971 S. 4th St.), on August 4, 2-3 p.m. A reception at Vault 1031 (1031 S. 6th St.) performance space will follow.
Brian Hinds is one of the event’s organizers. Hinds was an actor living in New York when he first traveled to Louisville to work a summer season with the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. He says he “had been floundering” in New York, but fell in love with Louisville and its theater community after a summer performing under the stars in Central Park.
“What I remember most fondly about my years at Kentucky Shakespeare were the families sitting in the front rows,” says Hinds. “Kids who were wandering through the park would stop and watch. I have such a clear memory of the faces of a group of boys smiling and listening during a production of ‘Pericles.'”
He liked it so much he moved here in 2008, continuing to work in Shakespeare in the Park productions for the next couple of seasons. The title role in “Richard III” was his 2010 Kentucky Shakespeare swan song, and now he teaches theater arts at Youth Performing Arts School and acts and directs with several companies around town.
Kentucky Shakespeare canceled the remainder of the “Twelfth Night” run earlier this month, part of a series of events that led to the resignation of Producing Artistic Director and CEO Brantley Dunaway, who joined the organization in 2010. Hinds says the news of the abrupt cancelation of this season’s only mainstage production prompted fellow actors and Shakespeare in the Park alumni to reminisce together about their experiences in Central Park, and they agreed they wanted to keep the spirit of free Shakespeare in the Park going.
“Shakespeare should be available,” says Hinds. “A group of us decided that we have the artists, we have the words, the parks. Why not?”
That rhetorical question is echoed by Fund for the Arts president Barbara Sexton Smith, who has been in talks with many community Shakespeare supporters during this time of transition for the organization, including Hinds and other actors like J. Barrett Cooper, Julane Havens, Jon Huffman and Gregory Maupin — familiar faces on classically-informed Louisville stages like Savage Rose Classical Theatre, Kentucky Shakespeare and Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble.
“Shakespeare in the Park could become more than what it is right now. I believe it needs to stay where it is in Central Park, but I also believe it needs to travel to all 17 Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks,” says Sexton Smith. “I am in complete support of Scenes and Sonnets.”
“Many of the theater artists in Louisville have done at least one show in Central Park,” adds Hinds. “To a person, we all felt part of a very rare community. The lines between audience and actor are deliberately thin when doing Shakespeare outside. If there is no Shakespeare to bring your family to, we are trying bring Shakespeare to your family.”