Live theater is back, baby! And to celebrate the return of long-awaited, in-the-flesh performances, HBO has created a documentary titled, Reopening Night which will hit HBO Max this December.
Directed by Rudy Valdez (The Sentence) with Matthew O’Neil and Perri Peltz (Axios) serving as executive producers, the new documentary will center around the busy lives of cast, crew, and staff of the Public Theater while they attempt to pull off a new adaptation of William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a stormy summer season at the outdoor Delacorte Theater in New York City. The famed company has been at the helm of putting on summertime productions in the heart of Manhattan’s Central Park for nearly 60 years. Each year, the team is put to the test with the challenges of outdoor theater, but nothing is quite as taxing as bringing live performances back to a world that is ever-changing with COVID regulations.
The documentary promises to show all of the highs and lows that went into bringing this seasonal show to New Yorkers including behind-the-scenes peaks at casting, rehearsals, and even the task of constructing a set that could withstand any weather Manhattan threw at it. Viewers will also hear first hand from the creative team including playwright Jocelyn Bioh; director Saheem Ali; The Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis; set designer Beowulf Boritt; musician Farai Malianga; assistant director Abigail Jean-Baptiste, as well as the cast members, crew members, staff, and many more involved with the groundbreaking adaptation.
The Public was founded by Joe Papp who held on tightly to the idea that theater and other forms of art should both belong to and be easily attained by all communities. For the adaptation, which is titled Merry Wives, the theater will be bringing in playwright Bioh to bring the iconic comedy to a new light. The updated take will be set in South Harlem and will center around a tight-knit group of West African immigrants and will feature an all Black cast as they take the comedic piece to new heights and examine the Black experience as it pertains to theater and beyond.
With the world slowly gaining some semblance of “normal,” seeing live theater come back whether it be community or Broadway, is a very exciting thing. For New Yorkers, the Shakespeare in the park summertime series is a must-do every year and so many were thrilled to see it making a comeback during the summer of 2021.
Check out the full trailer below and see what the reopening of the Public Theater and the production of Merry Wives means to those closest to it and get a taste of what you can expect when Reopening Night hits HBO Max on December 20, 10:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT.
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