Wednesday, July 29, 2020

BBPAC Mounts Revamped Summer Shakespeare Festival

Shakespeare in the Park Bergen County

In February, The Black Box PAC Shakespeare in the Park Bergen County team was preparing the lineup for 2020, their third season of free outdoor performances, before the pandemic hit. All involved have been closely monitoring the situation, and given current guidelines, BBPAC has been given the go-ahead to move forward with their third season—although it may look a bit different!

In the wake of COVID-19, the uniquely collaborative group of theater makers have revamped their annual summer festival. First, BBPAC has been presenting free online readings of “The Henry Trilogy,” Shakespeare’s renown history plays in chronological order throughout the month of July! The readings on Wednesdays at 8PM EST have included Richard II on July 15, Henry IV (parts 1 and 2) on July 22, and will finish up with Henry V on July 29. (Tune in to the recurring Zoom meeting: )

For ten weeks throughout Covid-19, Black Box PAC teamed up with the Englewood Public Library,as well as The Bristal of Englewood, to present free weekly readings of condensed Shakespeare works. They were successful public events which prompted BBPAC to add this online component as a start to this year’s summer festival. The July readings were curated and rehearsed under the guidance of Dramaturg Bess Miller and BBPAC’s Director of Shakespeare Programming Michael Gardiner. Over the three weeks, the performers reprised their characters throughout Shakespeare’s epic meditation on leadership, loyalty, and what it means to speak truth to power.

But that was just the beginning! Following the reading series, the actors will be moving outside starting in mid-August and performing through the end of September as the ever-evolving situation allows. In these public venues (ranging from libraries and parks in Tenafly, Englewood, and Teaneck), The Tempest and Measure For Measure will be performed outdoors without fixed seating. Audiences will bring their own chairs and will set up at a distance from other parties. Furthermore, audience will be asked to comply with current state guidelines and wear masks. Local officials will be in attendance to ensure distancing is taking place. BBPAC strictly follows all up-to-date health protocols as dictated by local, state, and national authorities. The safety of our patrons and performers is of the utmost importance. (Top: rehearsing for The Tempest)

The Borough of Tenafly began an outdoor concert series mid-July, led by Council President Jeff Grossman. The Tenafly Presents committee has been carefully planning the 2020 performance series in order to adjust to COVID-19 and social distancing concerns. They are excited to add Shakespeare to the lineup! Performances have been at Huyler Park (intersection of Hillside & Piermont) with audience members instructed to bring a chair and a mask. Other public locations will include The Englewood Library, The Teaneck Library, and Ridgewood’s Memorial Park at Van Neste Square. More dates are being added each day, so be sure to follow @BlackBoxPAC and to visit for a full, updated list.

Additionally, this summer a selection of special private venues will be added to the lineup. Old York Cellars in Ringoes has been hosting a “Summer Wine & Music” series and “Wine & Comedy” nights in their outdoor tent. In August, they will add Shakespeare to the mix! These performances will require reservations through Old York Cellars, at

This year, the Shakespeare in the Park Bergen County company is excited to mount productions of Measure for Measure and The Tempest in rep. The shows feature the talents of professional actors from NJ and NY including: Christina Cruz, Allen Garcia, Michael Gardiner, Cassandra Guglielmo, Kentrell Loftin, Danielle MacMath, Sean Mannix, Rachel Matusewicz, Bess Miller, Arthur Gregory Pugh, Ilana Schimmel, and Jacey Schult, and are directed by BBPAC's Artistic Director Matt Okin and Mr. Gardiner. Mr. Gardiner's punk rock production of Romeo & Juliet won the 2019 BroadwayWorld NJ Award for Best Touring Production

Black Box Performing Arts Center is a 501(c)3 non profit theater company. They are able to present free summer Shakespeare with the support of the Puffin Foundation, Arbor Terrace of Teaneck, Bauer Printing, Michael Pessolano of Freidburg Properties, and the Northern New Jersey Community Foundation COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.

For more information, please email and visit