Next month, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will be putting on productions outside in Florham Park. The plan is to keep the audience members not just away from the actors, but away from each other, with family groups seated in different "pods" spread out across the lawn.
"That simply means that we will be creating circles on the ground in which you will have your own eight foot circle of space, six feet from every other circle," Artistic Director Bonnie Monte said in a statement. Audience members will have to wear masks, and reservations are required.
STNJ's productions are scheduled to open at the end of this week. Some performances are already sold out, but according to their website, viewings have been added from August 7th through August 16th. Audience members are encouraged to bring blankets or very low-lying beach chairs. If you have a higher lawn chair, the theatre will put you in a pod in the back.
Two different productions will be offered. The first, Verily, Madly Thine is a collection of different scenes (mostly by Shakespeare) that show how crazy people can get when they fall in love. The scenes are directed by AC Horton, who compiled the piece for last year's "Shrewd Mechanicals" tour. If you saw it last year, though, STNJ promises the production has been expanded to include some new material.
The second offering will be a double-bill of Molière's The Love Doctor and Edna St. Vincent Millay's Aria Da Capo, both directed by Monte. While I'm not familiar with the first piece, Aria Da Capo is a beautiful one-act play written in the wake of the First World War. It's disturbingly relevant today, and what is more, it requires fairly little interaction between performers, which might make it an ideal play for the COVID era.
Each show lasts about an hour. The pieces alternate each night, and tickets are $20. You can reserve your seat... and pod... by calling the box office at 973-408-5600. The box office is open between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The biggest problem with the Florham Park venue is that it is not particularly accessible by public transportation. In the past, I've taken the train out to see STNJ productions in Madison, but being carless, I'll have to pass on this one.
If you do have your own car, though, I hope you'll head out to support a theatre company that is resuming live performance, and in the safest manner possible.