The lawn behind Rockwood Manor in Wilmington may not be festooned with a stage and happy picnickers waiting to be entertained by Delaware Shakespeare.
But a little bit of the Bard could be found there last week and the next, with the Soliquy Stroll, a 40-minute hike around the grounds with actors offering monologues from six of William Shakespeare’s plays.
“We just wanted to find any way to get Shakespeare out at Rockwood Park this summer,” said David Stradley, producing artistic director of Delaware Shakespeare.
The annual summer production was canceled in May when COVID-19 showed no signs of abating.
Stradley said he was inspired by Rockwood starting garden tours about a month ago for 10 people or less.
“So we reached out to the county and said, ‘If we did an event that was 10 people or less at a time, would you approve it?’ and they said yes,” Stradley said. “So we came up with the idea of a Soliloquy Stroll with a very small intimate audience that we could take around in a very controlled manner and have intimate interactions with great Shakespeare characters.”
The event sold out last weekend. A few time slots are left for Saturday’s redeux. Get them here.
Delaware Shakespeare also plans to sell a video of the stroll for $15. It will be available here.
Among the performers and soliloquys:
- Dog Durlacher plays the porter from “Macbeth,” who is woken by someone knocking on the castle door.
- Newton Buchanan plays Benedick from “Much Ado About Nothing,” lamenting the fact that his best friend has fallen in love.
- Satchel Williams plays Imogene, lost in the woods, in “Cymbeline.”
- Emily Schuman plays Philip the Bastard from “King John,” complaining about being left behind in the power games.
- Rachel O’Hanlon Rodriquez plays Hamlet, watching a battle he’s about to join.
- Becky Rusch plays Puck from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” bidding guests good night.
Most of the soliloquys were assigned, but Shuman asked to switch hers, and Stradley said OK.
Tickets are sold in groups of four for $40, and two groups travel the circuit together with a guide. Masks are required as is social distancing between unrelated groups. At each stop, areas were designated for groups to stand apart.
Actors, too, are socially distanced. Most more than 10 feet from the audience.
It’s still an intimate experience, with the actors asking questions (in some cases, demanding) of the audience members to pull them into the experience.
Delaware Shakespeare recently got a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to allow it to hire four people to work with it, and they will help the company create more virtual and small-scale in-person programming.
Laurel A. Riegel, who was named an honorary producer of the program for her longtime support, called the stroll magical.
“It couldn’t have been more beautiful and meaningful,” she said. “So I hope in addition to the picnic every year and the performance, maybe we can get the stroll in as well.”
The more, the better, she said.
She thinks Stradley has been quite innovative with his programming since the coronavirus shut theaters and other large gatherings.
“It all goes back to his mission and Delaware Shakespeare’s mission and vision,” she said, “which is to bring .. all aspects of our community together to enjoy Shakespeare as they did so long ago.”