Volume 23, Number 9 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | July 9 - 15, 2010

Theater


LOVE’S LABOURS LOST
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kathy Curtis
A Drilling Company production
In the Municipal Parking Lot, at the corner of Ludlow and Broome Streets
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
July 8 through July 24
FREE
For info: 212-873-9050, or shakespeareintheparkinglot.com

JULIUS CAESAR
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Hamilton Clancy
As above, July 29th-August 14th

Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

Clockwise from left: Stephen Drabicki, Paul Guskin, McKey Carpenter, Dave Marantz, Jordan Feltner, Amanda Dillard, Jasper Stoffer, Jasmine Monet, Tim Realbuto.

As July sizzles, Con Ed power propels their show
Parking Lot plays are Drilling Company’s gift to a hot town

BY JERRY TALLMER

Con Edison is an institution most people in this town love to hate. Not so, for Hamilton Clancy.

“Con Edison gives us free lighting,” says the founder-director of The Drilling Company — a theater outfit that does free Shakespeare in a municipal parking lot on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It’s just like Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park, but not in a king-sized amphitheater and not in Central Park.

“People don’t usually sing the praises of the Department of Transportation or of Con Edison, but we do,” says Hamilton Clancy. “DOT gives us permission to be there, and our lighting is from Con Edison’s street lamps. We also have to thank the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.”

This, the 19th summer season of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot — and The Drilling Company’s seventh season there — starts with “Love’s Labours Lost.”

“Love’s Labours Lost,” you may remember, is the poetic romp in which Ferdinand, young King of Navarre, induces three not-too-willing courtiers to join him in three years of serious study — three years, likewise, of forswearing most food and all fair women.

Shakespeare might be surprised — and who knows, tickled? — to see his dedicated King of Navarre (Jasper Soffer) and the beauteous Princess of France (Anwen Darcy) converted to rock stars of a competing Boy Band and Girl Band.

Says artistic director Clancy: “We routinely change locations, pronouns, etc., and throw in specific New York City references to enhance the comic value.”

Hamilton (or Joe) Clancy — no relation to the Clancy Brothers of Irish song and story — was born in New Orleans on August 3, 1962. His father, a doctor — “and the first Irish-Catholic president of the student body at CCNY” — died in a plane crash when the son was still a kid. The name Hamilton is derived partly from the grandfather who raised that son, and partly from grown-up Clancy’s admiration for the actor Harrison Ford.

The Drilling Company also derives its name from Grandfather Hamilton, “an oil man” who, well, drilled for oil. Those oil wells also provided a grubstake for aspiring actor Clancy to come to New York in 1990. Nine years later he launched The Drilling Company.

An important influence in all this has been Clancy’s acting teacher and mentor, Wynn Handman — artistic director of the American Place Theatre.

“Wynn was dedicated to new playwrights and poetic playwrights. Shakespeare’s the greatest poetic playwright of all time.”

The Drilling Company came into being when Clancy, in 1999, met a woman (aka an angel) who was interested in theater and whose husband was a grandson of Walter P. Chrysler.

Oh, those good old grandfathers…

“I was standing on the roof of my building on the Upper West Side and looked downtown and thought: Wow! — from New Orleans to the Chrysler Building!”

The inspiration for Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot, says Clancy, “is 75 percent Wynn Handman.”

And the other 25 percent? Joe Papp? a journalist hazards. A journalist who was there in the very earliest days of what was then called the Shakespearean Workshop Theater, when Jack Cannon and Colleen Dewhurst and others of Papp’s young ensemble did wonderfully virile renditions of “The Taming of the Shrew” and other classics in the tiny East River amphitheater at the foot of Grand Street, with tugboats tootling up and down the river in the background, airplanes roaring overhead toward LaGuardia, and Puerto Rican kids and aged Jews from the adjacent project sitting engrossed on cement bleachers.

“Exactly,” says Hamilton Clancy, who, as it happens, never worked in a Joseph Papp production. “I’m a Shakespeare-in-the-Park junkie to this day. A thousand people sitting in the park to see Shakespeare! One of the most democratic things in this world. It says to out-of-towners: ‘This is New York.’ “

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is much the same thing, if on a somewhat smaller scale: Fifty spectators on plastic chairs provided by the management, maybe another hundred on mats or making do in other ways.

“This is a municipal parking lot with mini-meters. One of the more theatrical moments in any show is when a driver comes to get his or her car. The actors stop. The audience, without instruction, stands up, turns around, moves its chairs, sits back down, and the show resumes.

‘Like your Joe Papp audiences, we get just about every ethnicity. Asian kids playing in the background. People from every stripe of life passing by and integrating into the audience. Accessibility is our strong point.”

For newer (i.e., non-Shakespearean) plays, The Drilling Company has an uptown performance space just west of Broadway at 236 West 78th Street, near where Clancy makes his home with actress wife Karen Kitz and son Joe (what else?), age 6.

Clancy the director is also, of course, Clancy the actor, and as such he’s been in “Hamlet” and “Henry V” and some six other Parking Lot works.

Long before Joe Papp ever came along to revitalize Shakespeare for American audiences, Orson Welles and John Houseman did “Julius Caesar” as a parable, or metaphor, on black-shirt Mussolini fascism. Not easy to forget, and never have.

The “Julius Caesar” that, directed by Hamilton Clancy, follows “Love’s Labours Lost” into the parking lot at Ludlow and Broome could be even more intriguing, not to say curious. Caesar is now the head of an urban school system, and, in a clash of ambitions, is murdered by a cabal of staffers and parents.

Shook-up Shakespeare? I should say so. Hey, you up there, Joe Papp. Wipe that grin off your face.

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