William Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” amidst scheming to overthrow the throne of England, has found time this month to tour the North Fork, thanks to a new group called the East End Mobile Theatre.
The new company, conceived by lifelong Riverhead resident Colin Palmer, is modeled after New York City’s Public Theater’s concept of making theater available to everybody.
“[Public Theater founder] Joseph Papp wanted to make Shakespeare as accessible to the the community as possible. He started Shakespeare in Central Park, and a mobile theater unit, which brought free productions to community centers and prisons and areas that may not necessarily see Shakespeare,” said Mr. Palmer in an Oct. 16 interview with The Beacon.
“The North Fork is so unique geographically, with Route 25 and the North Road. It’s not like you can really get people from north or south,” he added. “We wanted as many people as possible to be able to see this production.”
Richard III opens next Thursday, October 26 at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street in Greenport, with shows on the 26th and 27th at 7 p.m. It then moves to Orient’s Poquatuck Hall for performances on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m., before finishing out its run Nov. 2, 3 and 4 at 7 p.m. at the Jamesport Meeting House on the Main Road in Jamesport.
There will be a talkback with the actors after the Oct. 28 performance.
“Richard III”, one of Shakespeare’s historical plays, tells the tale of the rise and short reign of the deformed King Richard III, who plotted to overthrow his brothers in his mad quest for the throne.
“It’s been my favorite play since middle school,” said Mr. Palmer, who graduated from Riverhead High School in 2009 and was very involved with the high school theater group the Blue Masques and North Fork Community Theatre’s Youth on Stage during his teenage years.
“My mom took me to England when I was 10 and we went to the Tower of London, where I learned the story of Richard III and the murder of the princes,” he added. “I saw the Ian McKellen version and immediately fell in love.”
In addition to directing, Mr. Palmer will also star as Richard III.
This production also stars Yank Adler, Emil Breitenbach, Ben Eager, Tim Ferris, Justin Harris, Amy Ippolito, Joseph Podlas, Christine Richard, Mark Sisson, Sarah Storjohann, John Tramontana, Dan Yaiullo, and John Yaiullo, many of whom are veteran actors on the North Fork’s stages.
Mr. Palmer, who got a degree in theater from Stony Brook University in 2016, first directed Shakespeare in Northeast Stage’s 2013 Shakespeare in the Park production of Henry V in Greenport’s Mitchell Park.
“That production had a real mix of actors, from the classically trained to people in the community. It taught me a lot about doing a more professional production,” he said.
The cast has been rehearsing at both the Jamesport Meeting House and Holy Trinity since August, and is planning a long tech rehearsal out at Poquatuck Hall this coming week.
“Holy Trinity Church has been so open to theater over the years. We wanted to be there,” said Mr. Palmer. “The Jamesport Meeting House is not a traditional stage. It’s an altar, and we’re using that as a basis, with an audience-level playing space in front and room to use the vertical space to portray a power dynamic and people fighting for control. And Poquatuck Hall is just a beautiful gem of a space.”
Mr. Palmer won’t get much of a rest after this production — He’s directing David Sedaris’s “Santaland Diaries” at the North Fork Community Theatre this December 9 & 10.