Discover All Things Regional in Central PA’s art and culture scene. Join hosts Cary Burkett and Joe Ulrich as they make artistic discoveries throughout the midstate. From music and visual arts to theatre, museums, literature and more! Listen every Wednesday and Friday on witf 89.5 and 93.3 for features highlighting the best and brightest cultural happenings in the region.
Clark and Melissa Nicholson launched the Harrisburg Shakespeare Company in 1994, presenting free Shakespeare productions in Levitt Pavilion at Harrisburg’s Reservoir Park. It’s a part of Gamut Theatre Group, which offers children’s theatre under the banner of the Popcorn Hat Players and mainstage productions at their facility in Strawberry Square.
This year’s production of Measure for Measure in late May and early June will mark the 20th anniversary for the free Shakespeare performances. With funding from the economically strapped city gone, the company has had to use creative ways to find other sponsors to keep the tradition alive.
Edwin Booth as Hamlet, 1870
The 20 year history of the Harrisburg Shakespeare Company is only a part of a long legacy of Shakespeare performances in the city. Strawberry Square, where Gamut Theatre is located, sits upon the site of the old Harrisburg Grand Opera House. Here, many famous American actors of the 19thcentury performed Shakespeare, including John Wilkes Booth and his brother Edwin, known as one of the great Hamlets of his time.
Joseph Jefferson, the patriarch of a famous American acting family, is buried in Harrisburg Cemetery, having died here while on tour in a Shakespearian production.
Clark Nicholson as Hamlet, 1997
Clark Nicholson knows a lot more about that story, and about other theatre history in Harrisburg. Below you can hear our interview with Clark, as he takes us on a tour of some of the sites around the city, and unfolds some of the rich theatrical legacy of the city of Harrisburg.
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