'Seize the King': Classical Theatre of Harlem returns with outdoor production

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- "Shakespeare in the Park" was a long tradition in New York City until the coronavirus pandemic put that on hold, along with so many other activities.

But now, the Classical Theatre of Harlem is back performing in Marcus Garvey Park.

The non-profit group seeks to make classic plays accessible and relevant by giving them what Producing Artistic Director Ty Jones calls, "an uptown flavor."

The work is even more important after the pandemic, but also a lot more challenging. Their latest production has been called "an absolute joy" by the New York Times.

"Seize the King' is an adaptation of Richard III," Jones said. "So all of the stuff around ambition and deceit and duplicity, you get all of those juicy things in our production."

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Each outdoor performance at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater is free.

"The mood has been extraordinary," Jones said. "I think people have been dying to come back outdoors to get together, to have proximity with one another, and what better way to do it than with theater. Classical Theatre of Harlem is proud that we're first to open live theater in New York City."

Jones said me bad weather did not deter those who came one recent rainy night.

"They stayed until the rain passed, 45 minutes, to watch this show," he said.

And as the crowd persevered, so has everyone involved.

"This energy in the room of everyone just excited and thrilled to be doing it again," said Ro Boddie, who plays King Richard.

Behind the scenes, the need to keep everyone safe was one challenge or producing this play.

"We had to be prepared to test everybody three times a week," Jones said.

A shortage of building materials that has driven up the cost of construction also affected Jones' calculations.

"So the cost of lumber to be able to build this set dramatically increased," he said.

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Nevertheless, the public response to "Seize The King" has made all his efforts worthwhile.

"It's been said that whenever someone is watching a great piece of art, their hearts begin to beat in sync," Jones said. "And I think that's what's happening with our audiences."

There are still opportunities to watch the production, with shows scheduled for Wednesday, July 28, at 8:30 p.m., and Thursday, July 29, also at 8:30 p.m.

The show closes after that.

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