'The Bacchae': Free summer theater courtesy the Classical Theatre of Harlem

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019
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Sandy Kenyon reports on the free summer theater being offered by the Classical Theatre of Harlem.

HARLEM, New York City (WABC) -- Free theater in the park is a summer tradition in New York City, but beyond Central Park's Delacorte Theater, there's another option uptown.

The Classical Theatre of Harlem has engaged people of all ages on a stage where old meets new.

"The Bacchae" was written in Greece more than 2,400 years ago, but as performed by CTH, the play doesn't seem ancient.

"We've made the language more fresh, more contemporary," director Carl Cofield said. "While staying absolutely true to the Greek Euripides text."

We joined Cofield in Marcus Garvey Park for a final rehearsal of the production, in which Jason C. Brown and R. J. Foster play cousins who are feuding.

"It's a family drama," Cofield said. "What's most important about this production is stimulating conversation. Hopefully, we can come together, take a look at the work, and then go home and have a cup of coffee, and say, 'What did you think of this?'"

Each performance, outdoors at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater, is free.

"No barriers to entry," Producing Artistic Director Ty Jones said. "Bring your family. Ride your bikes. Come on through and enjoy the production."

Jones is an actor who has been known to perform several duties here, including a starring role as "Macbeth" three years ago.

He is a man on a mission, trying to draw audiences uptown.

"A lot of folks tend to think that there's nothing above 96th Street," he said. "Well, we want to let people know what's happening up here in Harlem."

As the community goes, so goes its Classical Theatre -- and both are on the rise. The little kids who come to see the 70-minute show go away inspired.

"You don't know how art can affect someone, can change the trajectory of someone's life, can unlock some creativity," Cofield said. "And that's what we're in it for."

Everyone can see "The Bacchae" for free in Marcus Garvey Park Tuesday through Sunday at 8:30 pm until July 28.

For more information on the show, and the Classical Theatre of Harlem, visit CTHNYC.org/summer/.


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