Summer in New York: Royal Shakespeare Company at the Park Avenue Armory

20/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Taking in the view, opening night.

While summer in New York most definitely means it is time for Shakespeare in the Park, this summer, as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, New York has the honor of an extended visit by the Royal Shakespeare Company, direct from Stratford-upon-Avon.  Nearing its 50th birthday, with the Prince of Wales as President and Her Majesty the Queen as Patron, based in the city of Shakespeare’s birth and burial, you know the RSC means business when it comes to the Bard.

Not content to merely take up residence at any old theatre, the RSC has built a smaller replica of the unique thrust stage from their Stratford theatre inside one of my favorite buildings, the Park Avenue Armory — one of the largest unobstructed spaces in New York.  Requiring 230 tons of equipment and nearly 100 people working around the clock to construct it, the RSC performs in a truly amazing space with seating on three levels, surrounding three sides of the stage.

“It’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle…things that fit together…”

The entrances to the theatre.

I was fortunate to catch Romeo and Juliet on opening night, which has opened to mixed reviews.  I would generally agree with the Times, note that the production value is very high and that Jonjo O’Neill as Mercutio steals the show with his dirty pantomime.  Joseph Arkley as Tybalt wasn’t too shabby either.  Wait, who am I kidding?  I always love Tybalt best of all…

  Peace? Peace? I hate the word, as I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee.

If the star crossed lovers aren’t your bag, you can also catch performances of King Lear, As You Like It, Julius Caesar and The Winter’s Tale.  The shows run through August 14, and are selling quite briskly.  Check the schedule and buy tickets here.

Arrive a bit early to give yourself some time to wander the rooms of the Armory.  Aside from the remarkable size of the drill hall, the Armory, completed in 1881, is home to what has been called “the single most important collection of 19th- century interiors to survive intact in one building.”  Some rooms are a bit shabby around the edges, but it all adds to the character of the stately building.  Each room contains impressive military portraits, plaques and ornamental features that definitely demand a visit on their own.  If you like looking at dudes with interesting mustaches, mutton chops and swords, you may feel as though you’ve died and gone to heaven.

Portrait in the Board of Officers Room

“Board of Officers Room: This is one of the few surviving Herter Brothers interiors in the country, but one of five in the Armory. Herter Brothers was a top cabinet-making and interior design firm in the Gilded Age and designed the Fifth Avenue mansion of William H. Vanderbilt (now demolished). This room still retains the original painted ceiling and magnificent mahogany woodwork although the walls were over- painted in a 1932 restoration. Water infiltration in the early 1990s has caused significant damage but the plaster has recently been stabilized.

Marquis de Lafayette

Edward, Duke of Windsor

George VI

Ceiling of the Veterans Room

“Veterans Room: This and the Library next door are the only fully extant interiors by Louis C. Tiffany, Associated Artists in the world. They were designed in 1880 by Associated Artists, a cooperative firm of artists led by Tiffany working with Samuel Colman, Lockwood de Forest and Candace Wheeler with consulting architect Stanford White and artists George Yewell and Francis D. Millet. The Veterans Room has been described as “Greek, Moresque, and Celtic with a dash of the Egyptian, the Persian and the Japanese.”

Veterans Room.  Image via the Park Avenue Armory.

Royal Shakespeare Company at the Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
(212) 616-3930

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