Derrik Lewis and Rena May, in a scene from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the Stratford Players’ production of “Will in the Woods” presented at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18, outdoors at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy Marsha Kennedy
Derrik Lewis and Rena May, in a scene from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the Stratford Players’ production of “Will in the Woods” presented at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18, outdoors at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church.
Photo courtesy Marsha Kennedy

Continuing its commitment to the classics, the Stratford Players presents “Will in the Woods IV,” a full immersion in some sonorous Shakespeare snippets — sonnets, and scenes from some of the bard’s most memorable, merry and moving masterpieces — “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “Macbeth” or, for the superstitious actor, “The Scottish Play,” “Richard II,” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

Artistic and WITW IV director Marsha Kennedy decided to mix it up a bit this year. “We’ve added excerpts from excellent and seldom-seen plays by Shakespeare contemporaries Thomas Middleton and Cyril Tourneur,” she noted. “There’s also a comic sketch made famous by British actors Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson that features Christopher Morse and Mark Rogers as Shakespeare and his agent. This year’s program also introduces a quartet of madrigal singers.”

Kennedy observed that Stratford is serving up Shakespeare for a broad audience, not just for those who hang on every word of even his longest play (for the record, “Hamlet,” at 4,024 lines). “Everyone knows that Shakespeare wrote some of the most beautiful prose in the English language,” she said. “However, by modern standards, his plays can seem a bit long and slow-moving.” Again for the record, Shakespeare is normally spoken at the rate of 1,000 lines an hour, making “Hamlet” a four-hour experience, unless edited.

“Our solution,” said Kennedy, “is to extract the funniest, the most thought-provoking, and the most dramatic and soul-stirring moments. We think the result is Shakespeare at his most enjoyable. Even people who think they don’t like Shakespeare will enjoy this one!”

WITW IV plays, as it did in Shakespeare’s time, during the day with natural sunlight providing the illumination. Performances are at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, and Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17 and 18. Tickets are $12 and are available online (www.stratfordplayers.com) or at the door. Fancy Pants Box Seats, elevated and soft, are $25.

Kennedy advised that seating, in the outdoor Sylvan Stage at St. Hugh’s Episcopal Church, is on benches, just as it was in Shakespeare’s time. Patrons may bring cushions if they like.

Featured players are Barbara Rayliss, Christine Hunt, Christopher Morse, Derrik Lewis, Dick English, Doug Austin, Harriet Briant, Jeannette Rogers, Mark Rogers, Rena May and Kennedy. Julie Pence stage manages.

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