2012-06-01 / Community

Free Shakespeare Productions Making Rockaway Stops

By Nicholas Briano

NPS Park Ranger George Tonkin (left) and Hip to Hip co-founder Jason Marr (right) at Riis Park promoting this summer’s “Free Shakespeare in the Park” which will happen on July 28. NPS Park Ranger George Tonkin (left) and Hip to Hip co-founder Jason Marr (right) at Riis Park promoting this summer’s “Free Shakespeare in the Park” which will happen on July 28. For the past five summers, Hip to Hip, a not-for-profit theater group from Queens, has been captivating audiences across the borough performing classic, yet easy to interpret “Free Shakespeare in the Park.” And for the first time in their brief history, the group will perform twice in the Rockaways this summer. Best of all … It’s free.

The group was founded by the husband and wife tandem of Jason and Joy Marr. While living in Sunnyside, they started the group in an effort to share their love of Shakespeare with the borough they had fallen in love with. Each year productions have grown to include more plays, venues and improved production qualities. Luckily for Rockaway, Hip to Hip will be performing their versions of “Hamlet” and “The Comedy of Errors” this year right here on the peninsula. On Saturday, July 28 at 7 p.m. Riis Park will host a production of “The Comedy of Errors” and the following day, on Sunday, Hamlet will be performed at the new Beach 17 Street Park in Far Rockaway, also at 7 p.m.

The Riis Park show’s exact location is to be determined, but will most likely take place around the area of the bathhouse. Marr admits that he would never have envisioned the type of growth the company has had, but takes it all in stride.

“It great,” he said. “The more people we can reach the better. It started out as one play in our neighborhood of Sunnyside and has grown each year, becoming bigger and better every time. This will be the first year we can say that we have reached every part of Queens now that we have come out to Rockaway and other parts of southern Queens.”

Rather than expand to other boroughs, however, Marr says Hip to Hip feels right at home here in Queens.

“This is a theater company based out of Queens and we will continue to produce quality Shakespeare productions for as long as we can for the people who live here.”

In their first season the group played just two shows which averaged about 500 viewers. The following year their audiences grew to 950 people; then in 2009 the productions grew to about 2,000 attendees. In 2010, after catching the attention of local politicians, the group saw an increase of public funding which helped spawn an increase in the technical aspects of their productions such as improved stage sets, lighting, live music and this year, hopefully an amplified sound system if enough funding can be raised in time. Over the course of eight venues in the summer of 2010, the Hip to Hip company performed “Macbeth” and “The Taming of the Shrew” for nearly 4,000 people. Every summer season to date, the company has chosen one classsic Shakespeare tragedy and one comedy to perform for audiences across the borough.

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