It’s been a tradition in New York City since the 1960s, and now it’s coming to Warwick. The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park has been delighting audiences in Central Park for 50 years and, taking a page from their book, the Friends of Pawtuxet Village will use Pawtuxet Park as a stage.
Although it won’t be Shakespeare, this first ever Theatre in Pawtuxet Park will include scenes, monologues and songs from popular pieces of theater.
Margarita de Santis, a Warwick resident and member of the Barker Playhouse in Providence, said she’s always wanted to do theater in the park.
“It’s been a dream of more than two decades,” she said in an interview earlier this week.
Marta Martinez, president of the Friends of Pawtuxet Village, loved the idea. Martinez started the Friends roughly two years ago and had been working with de Santis on the holiday stroll they do each year. When they convened for a meeting in January, de Santis threw out the idea to do theater in the park this summer.
“We wanted to keep doing what we’re doing but add more to the calendar,” Martinez said.
So they set to work. But what they quickly found was that permitting for an outdoor theatrical performance would be tricky. The troupe, they found, had to have proper insurance. But de Santis had a solution: Barker Players, a non-profit entity, already had insurance and met the city requirements for outdoor entertainment.
Once she had clearance, de Santis began planning a program and discussing with other Players how to best put on a show to remember.
The Players perform in a historic building on Benefit Street in Providence and are the nation’s oldest continuously running little theater. The theater was founded in 1909, and the Players are beginning their 104th season. The troupe performs a variety of plays and musicals each year, so de Santis thought she would represent that blend of genres in this month’s inaugural performance.
“The program is light and fun,” said de Santis. “We’re going to give a taste of the Players.”
The program will include several musical numbers from Broadway and the 1940s, a monologue from “The Seafarer,” one act from David Ives’ comedy, “Mystery at Twicknam Vickerage,” and a scene from “Plaza Suite” by Neil Simon.
“It’s very campy,” said de Santis. “It’s an opportunity to just have fun, there’s nothing serious.”
Initially, de Santis considered staging a traditional Shakespeare in the Park but thought doing something with more variety would appeal to a larger audience.
“I like starting off with variety shows,” said Martinez. “Hopefully, as years go by, this will represent what we’re doing – everything.”
The first Theater in Pawtuxet Park performance will be held Aug. 24 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The show will last roughly an hour, and refreshments provided by the Players will be served in the Aspray Boathouse. In the event of rain, the performance will take place inside the Boathouse. The entire event is free and open to the public, and free parking is available at the Aspray Boathouse. Those who attend are encouraged to arrive early and bring picnic blankets and lawn chairs.
There will only be one performance this summer, but depending on the community response Martinez and de Santis hope to stage more in the future.
“We’re very excited about doing theater,” said Martinez. “We’re thrilled.”