Celebrating its fifth season of “Shakespeare in the Grove,” the Middletown-based theater group ArtFarm will return to Middlesex Community College this July with the romantic comedy As You Like It.
The outdoor play will run eight times, July 8-11 and 15-18, building on the success of ArtFarm’s previous summer productions.
But over its five years in the grove, rarely has the group been this excited about a prologue.
Kicking off each night’s performance will be an outdoor concert unlike any opener in ArtFarm’s previous years at Middlesex. The music will begin nightly at 6 p.m. and enliven nearly the entire hour preceding As You Like It at 7 p.m.
“We have been so fortunate to attract a really great group of musical acts, many that have regional or national followings,” said Dic Wheeler, Executive Director of ArtFarm. “If we skipped the Shakespeare and simply offered up these music performances this would still be one of the best concert series in the state.”
Wheeler hopes the varying musical acts will also help patrons choose on which night to attend to the show. The schedule of musical acts is as follows:
July 8: Nancy Tucker blends comedy, spirited guitar instrumentals and moving songs of human experience in her music for people of all ages.
July 9: Banning Eyre & Dirck Westervelt offer beautiful string music of West Africa. Many know Banning as producer of Afropop Worldwide and world music critic on National Public Radio. Dirck, among many other credits, has been the musical director for the Children’s Circus of Middletown since 1988.
July 10: Noah Baerman & Friends present an energetic jazz style that stirs the soul. Noah is a composer, performer and author whose recent recordings have garnered national attention and won numerous jazz awards.
July 11: Tom Callinan is Connecticut’s first State Troubadour. This singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is guaranteed to bring down the house with his impressive array of folk music, sea songs and original compositions.
July 15: Sirius Coyote are a multi-talented group of musicians, storytellers and instrument-makers. They will take you on a musical journey with their rousing mix of traditional, original and contemporary music of the Americas.
July 16: Eric Kuhn is a local singer-songwriter who will perform original music infused with more than a dash of humor and political commentary. Eric is also the composer of several songs in the As You Like It production and will be playing the role of Charles the wrestler.
July 17: Nzingas Daughters present an inspirational performance of a cappella spirituals, poetry, stories and songs from the Underground Railroad. The four women singers will fill the grove with energy and beautiful harmonies.
July 18: Phil Rosenthal is a nationally renowned singer, songwriter, recording artist and record producer whose compositions have been recorded by many leading bluegrass and country music performers including Johnny Cash and Bill Monroe. He is highly respected for his instrumental skills on banjo and mandolin, is another former Connecticut State Troubador, and plays with the Seldom Scene.
The event is free, but a $20 donation is suggested. Shakespeare in the Grove is co-sponsored by the Humanities and Arts division of Middlesex Community College. Additional support is proided by the Connecticut Commission of Culture and Tourism, the Middletown Commission on the Arts, Pratt and Whitney, It’s Only Natural Restaurant, KidCity and O’Rourke’s Diner.
For more information contact ArtFarm at 860-346-4390 or go to http://www.art-farm.org.