If you think you know the Bard, think again.
“This ain't your grandma's Shakespeare,” said Rudy Caporaso, one of the three co-founders of the Scranton Shakespeare Festival.
Founded last year with a production of “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” the festival returns to Scranton's Nay Aug Park from June 27-30 to present “The Comedy of Errors.”
“That piece is terribly kid-centric and family-friendly. It had a lot of color, a lot of physicality, vibrant energy and music,” Caporaso said of “Midsummer.” That energy will be translated a bit differently in “Errors,” which is, at its core, the story of two sets of long lost identical twins who discover the other's existence.
Cases of mistaken identity create a large portion of the “zany, madcap romp” that Caporaso and fellow founders Michael Bradshaw Flynn, 25, of Scranton, and London native and New York City resident Rosey Hay hope to offer to audiences.
Much of the action will focus on how Bradshaw Flynn and Caporaso, a New York City resident with roots in Throop and Olyphant, portray twins Antipholus and Dromio, respectively. Offstage sequences between character appearances last as little as eight seconds, so the actors must use all of their tools to make the change from one twin to the other believable.
“The challenge for us is to make those differences deliberate and distinct,” Caporaso said.
Aside from Bradshaw Flynn and Caporaso, the production also includes local talents Conor McGuigan and Marie Philbin, both of Scranton, and Dunmore residents Joe McGurl and Camille Reinecke.
While physical humor is a big part of the draw for many audience members, Hay, who has been an assistant director at the Royal Shakespeare Company, said there are many deep themes in “Errors” that Shakespeare often returned to in his later works.
“There are parts of it when you're searching for a lost twin or an identity that will make you whole,” Hay said. “There's an extraordinarily powerful, emotional punch to the end of the play that I think is really important… There is a true coming together of many different couples. There are four pairs of people who are either reunited or who become a couple for the first time.”
Performing outdoors at Nay Aug Park does present some unique challenges.
“I love outdoor theater, but Mother Nature can be a beast,” Caporaso said with a coy smile.
This year, performers will wear microphones, eliminating at least one barrier that some audience members may have had to overcome during “Midsummer” last year. It will also allow the actors to explore other nuances of their own delivery.
In addition to performances, the festival conducts outreach through pilot programs with United Neighborhood Centers. About five teens affiliated with UNC are interning with this summer's production.
“This is about bringing theater to people who, for whatever socio-economic reason, might not experience Shakespeare specifically in this way,” Caporaso noted.
The production is supported by the Lackawanna County Arts Council, the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority, the Scranton Area Foundation, the University of Scranton, Martz Trailways and WNEP.
Audiences are invited to pull up a chair (or blanket) and enjoy one of the greatest playwrights in the English language.
“It's timeless; it's beautiful,” said Philbin, 21. “Everyone can relate to Shakespeare in some way, and there's so many things you can do with it to make it fresh and interesting.”