Theatre patrons and supporters of the arts in the Rome community gathered on Thursday for the opening of “The Fantasticks” by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt. This is the third and final show of the River Arts District (RAD) Playhouse’s inaugural season.
Yellow Door Antiques, a neighbor of RAD Playhouse, sponsored the production of “The Fantasticks.” Nedra Manners, owner of Yellow Door, believes in supporting arts in the community and saw this sponsorship as the perfect chance to do so.
“It’s a great opportunity to support the arts in Rome,” Manners said. “It’s not just about my store, but it’s about being a part of the community. We help each other.”
In keeping with RAD’s opening night tradition, Manners hosted a pre-show reception at Yellow Door. Guests enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and drinks in the store before crossing the street to RAD Playhouse for the production.
RAD Playhouse, currently sharing space with the Church at Rome on 5th Avenue, came about at the end of the third season of the Rome Shakespeare Festival (RSF). Festival directors Gail Deschamps and Tracy Hellriegel decided to add an indoor, ticketed show to the Shakespeare festival. The first show, “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” was so well received that Deschamps and Hellriegel decided that a regular season of shows at an indoor venue would be a great way to continue their mission year-round and give the community the opportunity to see a different kind of production.
“It’s an intimate theatre experience to see a play that very much engages the audience,” Hellriegel said. “There’s no fourth wall in Shakespeare or at the RAD.”
Because the Shakespeare festival is free to the public, the proceeds from the playhouse shows go to support the costs required to run the festival.
“The money that we make at the RAD supports free Shakespeare on the Town Green,” Hellriegel said. “Being able to provide Shakespeare for free to people who would otherwise have no exposure to that kind of drama is so important to us.”
RSF hosts several other fundraisers throughout the year to support the festival, including a themed “ShakeSpirits” cocktail party kick-off for the festival and a progressive dinner between the rivers.
Hellriegel sees RSF and the RAD Playhouse as an asset to the Rome community.
“Having terrific galleries and performance and music is incredibly valuable to the economic viability of our community,” she said. “Our CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) does a great job of making Rome a destination.”
“The Fantasticks” runs through June 30, with shows Friday and Saturday night and matinee shows Saturday and Sunday afternoon. RSF is a two-week Shakespeare festival presented on the Town Green. It is free to the public with tables available for reservation on romeshakespearefestival.com. For its first four years of existence, RSF took place in June, but the 2019 festival will take place September 19-29.
This year, the festival will feature “Comedy of Errors” and “Hamlet” on the Town Green, as well as “The Importance of Being Earnest” in the RAD Playhouse. The RSF Young Actors will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on the Town Green and “Little Red Riding Hood” in the RAD Playhouse.