The Bard’s “The Winter’s Tale” on Great Lawn at Brookdale
By Mary Ann Bourbeau
LINCROFT – Along with students and community members involved in Brookdale Community College’s Summer Shakespeare Ensemble, Anthony Holiday has spent about 200 hours since mid-May getting ready for this year’s performance. But you won’t hear him complaining.
“We get no pay and no credit for a class,” said the 20-year-old theater and communications major. “Being in the show is reward in itself. It’s fun for me and it stretches my mind a bit.”
Like many people, Holiday was afraid of Shakespeare before he became familiar with the playwright’s work.
“It can be rather intimidating,” he admits.
But Holiday got over that intimidation thanks to professor John Bukovec, who started the Summer Shakespeare Ensemble at Brookdale 13 years ago.
“When I took over the department, I believed it needed a full complement of shows each year,” he said. “There is a lot of theater around us but in the summer, 80 percent of it is musical theater. That’s what draws and what makes money.”
Making money wasn’t Bukovec’s goal. He just wanted to share the works of Shakespeare with the community. So he decided to present the shows for free. The initial performance was “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“A lot of people came and appreciated it,” he said. “I want my students to have the opportunity to perform Shakespeare, and I want people to understand that there is more going on in theater than ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Grease.’ The biggest compliment I get is when people tell me they enjoyed it and understood it.”
This year, beginning Thursday, July 10, the Shakespeare Summer Ensemble will present “The Winter’s Tale” in which Leontes, the King of Sicily, convinces himself that his pregnant wife is carrying his best friend’s child. Leontes’s jealousy turns to tyranny as he destroys his family and a lifelong friendship.
“It’s about a man who goes to such extremes with power, control and jealousy, and then you see the hurt, forgiveness and redemption,” Bukovec said. “I love the language of Shakespeare. Once you understand the 450-year-old English, the imagery is wonderful. All of the characters are filled with realistic depth. It’s fun to play them as an actor, and also to get other people to play them as a director.”
Holiday has nothing but praise for Bukovec and the skills he has learned from his professor.
“He teaches you how to grow as an actor,” Holiday said. “He is very concerned about your well-being and future goals, and what you need to do to fulfill those goals. He makes sure you stick to your discipline.”
Bukovec, a Sayreville native who now lives in Bergen County, studied theater at Ramapo College and earned a graduate degree at The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago. He met his wife Jennifer while both were acting in a summer production of “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”
“It was a show romance that actually worked out,” he said.
Bukovec also admits that Shakespeare intimidates a lot of people, and that’s why he wants to share his love and understanding of it with the community.
“Shakespeare is literature but it’s meant to be performed,” he said. “He wrote it to be performed.”
The shows are mostly student-driven, but community members and alumni are also welcome to audition for roles and help out with production. “The Winter’s Tale” has 22 cast members, 18 of who are current students.
The school’s theater club sets up for the production and sells refreshments. Audience members are encouraged to bring chairs, blankets and picnics to the show, which takes place on the Great Lawn.
Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” will be presented at 7 p.m. July 10-12 and 17-19, and 6 p.m. July 13 and 20. Parking is available in Lot No. 2 at Brookdale Community College, 765 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft.
Vibe writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.