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Free Shakespeare Comes To Western Queens Parks


July 30, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge

Shakespeare will travel across Western Queens for the next two weeks, courtesy of the Borough-based Hip to Hip Theatre Company.

Starting Friday evening, productions of “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” will make stops in Sunnyside, Long Island City and Astoria for free, outdoor shows.

Founded by Queens-based actors Jason and Joy Marr, Hip to Hip is a nonprofit arts organization that brings free, family-friendly productions of popular theater classics to audiences across the Borough.

“[We’re] trying to foster a sense of community spirit through art,” Jason Marr said.

This weekend, Hip to Hip will perform “The Merchant of Venice” at Sunnyside Gardens on Friday at 7:30 p.m., and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at Gantry Plaza State Park on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday at Socrates Sculpture Park at 5 p.m.

Hip to Hip will follow the same schedule next weekend, but perform “Merry Wives” in Sunnyside and “Merchant” at Gantry and Socrates parks. Performances of the two plays will also alternate at other venues throughout August.

Marr said that, after performing Shakespeare’s “blockbusters” from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth, Hip to Hip became interested in the playwright’s lesser known plays, including “Merchant” and “Merry Wives.”

“What we were betting on is that a lot of the audience is coming out to see just free theater in the park, regardless of the title of the play,” he said, adding that so far it has been a good bet. “Our audiences are continuing to grow.”

As Woodside residents for about 15 years, and having put on their earliest productions in Sunnyside and Woodside, Jason and Joy consider these Western Queens venues “hometown turf,” Marr said.

Each performance will also be preceded by a kids’ show, which will include educational theater games.

“I think the most important thing [for Hip to Hip audiences] is that they came out and sat down with their friends and neighbors and had a cultural experience together,” Marr said.

Audiences are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chairs.

A full schedule of Hip to Hip performances is available online here.

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