Shakespeare, down by the riverside

Published February 16, 2006

Shakespeare's alive and well in Sims Park by the Pithlachascotee River in New Port Richey (or inside the nearby Richey Suncoast Theatre if the weather's bad) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

It's the first Shakespeare by the River festival, with Elizabethan songs, musicians and food, lectures on Shakespeare, movies about Shakespeare, excerpts and interpretations of Shakespeare's plays, readings of his sonnets, visits by the members of the Society for Creative Anachronism in period costume and the centerpiece of the festival, a 1920s version of the fantasy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

And everything - except the food - is free.

Activities start at 6 p.m. Friday with a discussion - "Who Wrote Shakespeare's Plays?" - in Peace Hall next to Sims Park.

Saturday's activities go from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., starting with a history of the Globe Theatre at Richey Suncoast Theatre, a birds of prey show at noon near Peace Hall and the Thespians of River Ridge doing Shakespeare-related musical numbers. SCA members will stroll the park from noon to 4 p.m., with sword fights and the Mitchell High School Players doing excerpts from the 1960s musical version of Midsummer on the stage. At the library on Main Street, see fiddler Elan Chalford at 3 p.m., followed at 4:30 p.m. by Al Pacino's documentary on producing Shakespeare's Richard III.

Sunday the River Ridge group will perform at 1 p.m. at the theater, followed by a reading of Shakespeare sonnets at 3 p.m. In the park, the SCA will visit from noon to 4 p.m. and the Mitchell High performers will go on at 2 p.m. In the library, the hilarious, two-hour film of all 37 of the bard's plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) will be shown at 4:30 p.m.

Bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating in the park.