As a teacher and a dad, Joshua Perl felt there's been something missing from the cultural landscape of the Hamptons since 2006. That's when the Hamptons Shakespeare Festival, a fixture in Montauk for 10 summers, lost its outdoor performance space in Theodore Roosevelt County Park -- never to return.
Perl's company, Hamptons Independent Theatre Festival, opens "A Midsummer Night's Dream" this week on the sloping greensward behind Bridgehampton High School, where the director taught monologue to English students as a guest artist. "That's when I discovered the space," says Perl, who also teaches at Suffolk County Community College. Bridgehampton High is about a 15-minute walk from the village's restaurants and amenities. "Part of my mission," Perl says, "is to offer a place where families can bring their kids to learn what it's like to experience Shakespeare in a magical setting."
CUE THE MOON
Part of that magic was revealed during a rehearsal when the full moon rose at 8:10 p.m. " 'That's got to be a good sign,' a cast member said," Perl recalls. The timing was perfect, occurring as the Mechanicals -- the actors in the play within the play -- discuss how they might evoke the moon onstage.
Deciding which play to perform as HITFest's inaugural Shakespeare was easy, Perl says. "It's almost the perfect comedy to perform outdoors," he says of "Midsummer." His kids agreed, he adds, noting that his daughter Josie, 8, quizzed her brother Nate, 4. "Josie said, 'I bet you don't even know who Titania is,' to which Nate replied, 'I do, too! She falls in love with a donkey.' "
An offshoot of Guild Hall-based Naked Stage, which presents readings of new or rarely performed plays, HITFest brings three Actors Equity thespians to its inaugural Shakespeare. "I thought it was important to make it professional," Perl says.
Bleachers are available, as is an area for chairs and blankets. Picnics are encouraged if you arrive early, but no alcohol -- though the production is sponsored by Wolffer Estate Vineyards -- as it's on public school property.
Mulford Repertory Theatre, performing in the open-air barn of the Mulford Farm Museum in East Hampton, presents the late Charles Ludlam's cult-classic farce "The Mystery of Irma Vep." "The play fits so well into our 18th century barn," says Richard Barons, director of the East Hampton Historical Society. To be precise, the barn dates back to 1721. The play, directed by Kate Mueth, is set in an English manor house deep in the countryside, where farm animals, along with ghosts, mummies, werewolves and vampires roam. The haunted are Lord Edgar, played by Trevor Vaughn, and Lady Enid, played by Isaac Klein. Drag, of course, was central to any Ludlam romp.
WHAT "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
TICKETS $20; amnd.eventbrite.com, 631-525-2995
WHAT "The Mystery of Irma Vep"
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. (gates open at 5) Wednesdays and Sundays, Aug. 15-26. Also Aug. 30 and 31, Mulford Farm Museum, 10 James Lane, East Hampton
TICKETS $20 ($25 at the door), theatermania.com, 866-811-4111