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Ambitious Nine-Show Line-up Announced for the PSF 2023 Summer Season

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival Announces Nine-Show Line-up for its Ambitious 2023 Summer Season

CENTER VALLEY, PA: November 18, 2022— Artistic Director Jason King Jones and Managing Director Casey William Gallagher are pleased to announce the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival 2023 season inspired by the theme Brave New Worlds. The programming runs May 31 through August 6 at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University and offers a thrilling line-up and a summer robust with fantastic opportunities for audiences of all ages to enjoy a live theatre experience.

“This summer we’ll be centering our season on the theme Brave New Worlds. Not only does the phrase come directly from The Tempest, which we’ll be producing in July, but it also perfectly encapsulates the sheer variety of stories we will tell and the communities with whom we’ll be telling them,” says Jason King Jones.

Musicals abound this summer, beginning on the Main Stage with In the Heights, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s pre-Hamilton breakout, and ending in the Schubert Theatre with the songs and stories of Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Shakespeare also abounds with Henry IV, Part 2 and The Tempest inside, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] [again] outdoors, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the road touring throughout the Lehigh Valley. Add to that line-up a brilliant adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, plus children’s shows that include the lovable fantasy James and the Giant Peach and the high-energy Shakespeare for Kids.

The Festival season launches in the Schubert Theatre with Henry IV, Part 2, the next chapter in Shakespeare’s epic cycle and a play not yet produced by PSF. Falstaff, Hal, and King Henry IV return in Shakespeare’s dramatic tale of family, betrayal, rebellion, and the making of a monarch. Henry IV, Part 2 marks the return of “Extreme Shakespeare.” The production will be rehearsed akin to the way Shakespeare’s company would have—actors arrive with their lines learned, rehearse on their own, wear what they can find, and open in a matter of days. No director, no designers. Just great actors, a brilliant play, pure adrenaline, spontaneity and creativity.

Before there was Hamilton, there was Lin-Manuel Miranda’s breakout hit musical In the Heights, which opens the season on the Main Stage. Set in the vibrant Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, New York, this Broadway sensation pulsates with music and numerous show-stopping dance numbers weaved through the universal story of chasing your dreams and finding family within your community. PSF is thrilled to present this winner of four Tony Awards including best musical and best score.

This summer PSF will launch its inaugural “Play On!” touring program bringing Shakespeare’s beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream to libraries, parks, and community centers all over the region. “These free performances offer people of all ages the opportunity to experience one of the Bard’s classics this summer in their own backyard,” says Managing Director Casey Gallagher. “A hallmark of our commitment to education, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed by members of PSF’s Young Company.”

Up next, PSF will be heading outdoors for an updated revival of the raucous comedy, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] (again). Patrons can laugh along as three well-intentioned but misguided actors attempt to tackle Shakespeare’s entire canon in 99 minutes. Bring the family and be prepared to laugh until it hurts in this freshly revised version of an old favorite in a new outdoor theatre space.

Productions in repertory return this summer—in a single day audiences can experience one company of actors in rotating repertory performing Shakespeare’s magical farewell to the stage The Tempest and an adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic Regency Era romance Sense and Sensibility. The Tempest will be directed by PSF’s Associate Artistic Director Dennis Razze, who began as a founding member 32 years ago in the inaugural season and will be retiring from the Festival at the end of the summer.

“Dennis Razze has been a fixture at PSF since Father Schubert launched this Festival. His artistic contributions over the years have been unmatched, from musicals to Shakespearean productions. I can’t wait to see how he directs this play,” says Gallagher.

For the final show in the Schubert Theatre, patrons are transported to a late-night bar in 1959 Philadelphia to encounter Billie Holiday sing her favorite songs and share a few salty stories, in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. Audiences will get a front row seat to experience a night of song, storytelling, and surprises. Lanie Robertson has written an engrossing tour-de-force for the actor who plays Billie Holiday near the end of her life. It’s a must-see musical for the summer,” says Jones.

In addition to the ambitious line-up, PSF will present several special events including the annual Luminosity Gala, pre-show dinners with the Directors and Shakespearean scholars, and community weekends. More details will be shared in upcoming announcements.

Current PSF subscribers can renew their subscription beginning November 30 by calling 610.282.WILL [9455] or by visiting the PSF box office at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. New subscriptions and packages will go on sale starting January 16 and single tickets will go on sale on February 13.

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival will perform at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of DeSales University. Additional information about the season, including creative teams and casting, will be announced at a later date. For interviews or press inquiries please contact Tina Slak: tina.slak@pashakespeare.org.

Summer Season 2023:

Schubert Stage: Henry IV, Part 2 (May 31 to June 11); James and the Giant Peach (July 7 to Aug 5); Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (July 19 to August 6).

Main Stage: In the Heights (June 14 to July 2); The Tempest (July 12 to August 6); Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility (July 20 to August 5); Shakespeare for Kids (July 26 to August 5).

Bard Outdoors: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (abridged) [revised] [again] (June 28 to July 16).

 “Play On!” community tour: Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream performing in several locations throughout the Lehigh Valley (June 2 to June 18).

 Artistic Leadership:

Jason King Jones, Artistic Director began his tenure as Artistic Director for PSF in the fall of 2022. Prior to serving the Festival, Jason was Artistic Director of National Players, the country’s longest-running classical touring company, Senior Associate Artistic Director at Olney Theatre Center in Maryland, where he produced over fifty plays and musicals in ten years, directed over twenty productions, and launched a successful summer theatre training program, and mentored dozens of early-career theatre makers. Prior to National Players and Olney, Jason was a New York-based freelance director and actor, working off-Broadway, regionally, and in multiple universities. Jason holds an MFA in Directing from the Boston University School of Theatre.

Casey William Gallagher, Managing Director has been with PSF for 25 years, and since 2004, in his role as general manager and later managing director, he has served as the administrative leader of the Festival. During this time, PSF subscriptions more than doubled, annual attendance increased by 75%, income from the annual Luminosity Gala fundraiser more than quadrupled, and the summer seasonal staff grew to over 200 which included an expansion in the number of Actors’ Equity contracts. Casey works closely with the box office, business, development, marketing, and production departments, and over the years he has also served as assistant house manager, box office manager, company manager, assistant producer, and director of development for PSF. Casey worked side-by-side with the Festival Founder Gerard J. Schubert, OSFS during the early seasons of PSF. Beyond the Festival, Casey has been treasurer for the Shakespeare Theatre Association, director of audience services for The People’s Light & Theatre Company, a peer panelist for the New Jersey Council on the Arts and a judge for the Greater Philadelphia Barrymore Awards for excellence in theatre. Casey has degrees in theatre and mathematics from DeSales University.

Dennis Razze, Associate Artistic Director is one of the founding members of PSF dating back to 1992. That year he played Hortensio in the Festival’s first Shakespeare production of The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Father Jerry Schubert.  Mr. Razze directed the Festival’s first production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as Shrew, and Twelfth Night. For the latter two he also composed the scores. Beginning in 2009, Mr. Razze went on to direct all of the Festival’s musicals except two, beginning with the first one, Man of La Mancha. Notably, he directed Ragtime in 2018, and in 2017 PSF’s sold-out production of Evita starring Broadway luminaries Dee Roscioli and Tony award winning actor Paulo Szot. He also directed PSF’s critically acclaimed production of West Side Story in 2016 and the Festival’s memorable Les Misérables in 2015. Including these blockbuster musicals, Mr. Razze has directed many of PSF’s highest attended productions–The Taming of the Shrew (1998), Fiddler on the Roof, Twelfth Night (2000), My Fair Lady, Sweeney Todd, South Pacific, and 1776.  He directed and wrote the music for PSF’s 2008 production of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Greg Wood and Amadeus starring Steve Burns of “Blue’s Clue’s” fame.  In 2017 he was awarded the Allentown Arts Ovation Award for Performing Arts. In 2023 he celebrates his 39th year as a faculty member of the DeSales Theatre Department, for which he served as chair for 17 years. He has directed more than 60 productions for DeSales’ theatre department. This April he will direct The Hunchback of Notre Dame for Act One.

About Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival

Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is the only professional Equity theatre of its scope and scale within a 50-mile radius. PSF is one of only a handful of theatres on the continent producing Shakespeare, musicals, classics, and contemporary plays, all of which can normally be seen in rep and in multiple spaces within a few visits in a single summer season. Similarly, PSF was among just a handful of theatres on the continent in recent summers to produce three Shakespeare plays in a single summer season. A patron would have to travel seven to nine hours from PSF to find a comparable range of offerings at a single theatre within a few weeks’ time.

The Festival’s award-winning company of many world-class artists includes Broadway, film, and television veterans, and winners and nominees of the Tony, Emmy, Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, Hayes, Lortel, and Barrymore awards. A leading Shakespeare theatre with a national reputation for excellence, PSF has received coverage in The Washington PostNPRAmerican Theatre Magazine, Playbill.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and in recent seasons The New York Times has identified PSF as one of the leading summer theatre festivals in the nation. “A world-class theater experience on a par with the top Bard fests,” is how one New York Drama Desk reviewer characterized PSF.

Founded in 1992 and the Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PSF’s mission is to enrich, inspire, engage, and entertain the widest possible audience through first-rate productions of classical and contemporary plays, with a core commitment to Shakespeare and other master dramatists, and through an array of education and mentorship programs. A not-for-profit theatre, PSF receives significant support from its host, DeSales University, from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Traditionally, with 150 performances over ten weeks, the Festival attracts patrons each summer from 30+ states. In 30 years, PSF has offered 200+ total productions (82 Shakespeare), and entertained 1,000,000+ patrons from 50 states, now averaging 34,000-40,000 in attendance each summer season, plus another 13,000 students each year through its WillPower Tour to schools. PSF is a multi-year recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts: Shakespeare in American Communities, and is a constituent of Theatre Communications Group, and the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA). In 2013, leaders of the world’s premiere Shakespeare theatres gathered at PSF as the Festival hosted the international STA Conference. The Festival’s vision is for world-class theatre.