Well, the summer arts season commenced with no firm announcement from Princeton Rep Shakespeare, a staple of the Princeton summer arts scene. But last week, a glimmer of hope flickered its cyber-light. In a July 7 E-mail from Princeton Rep artistic director Vicki Liberatori to supporters of the company, she wrote about the delay in scheduling: "As of last week, an accommodation was made regarding this summer’s scheduling conflicts. Unfortunately, as of this date, a key critical issue remains unresolved."
With Petteranello Gardens, the venue for Princeton Rep since 2000, now home to a number of enticing summer attractions, including the Thomas Sweet Outdoor Cinema Series and two "Music Under the Stars" performances by New Jersey Opera Theater, the question arose: Is there room for everyone at the inn?
Yes, says Jack Roberts of the Princeton Recreation Department. Referring to Liberatori’s E-mail, Roberts said: "I’m surprised they said that they don’t have a schedule, because the schedule we’ve been working on is August 11 through 28, Thursday through Sunday, for three weekends, for their production of ‘The Tempest.’"
According to Roberts, one problem has been a scheduling issue. Princeton Rep wants to use the weekend of August 5 and 6 for performances, to extend their season even further, but on those evenings, NJOT will be presenting "Music Under the Stars," at 8:30 p.m. "Princeton Rep may do a Friday and Saturday matinee those days. I’m not thrilled about it, but the good part is that they can finish their matinees and can turn the stage lights over to the opera people. I think it’s a little congested, but it will work out if there’s enough time in between performances," says Roberts.
He surmises that the "key critical issue" Liberatori refers to in her E-mail is actually what will happen in summer, 2006. "They want to book for two four-week performances, with set-up time and a week in between," says Roberts. "We can’t give them 11 weeks of the summer. It’s unrealistic of them to think they will be able to do two full productions. We’ve got Tom Grim’s (Thomas Sweet) cinema series and if the opera wants to come back, we don’t want to have to say no. In a way I feel badly for Princeton Rep. We’re all in favor of having them here, but we’d like to diversify the offerings. I think the rec board needs to do a better job of planning all this farther in advance."
Roberts says he expects to have discussions about the 2006 schedule with Princeton Rep in September. As for whether the conflict is stemming from the personalities involved, Roberts says: "We’re not interested in the personalities and administration. We want the community to have as much volume and as much diversification as possible." Roberts sees the amphitheater becoming a kind of mini-performing arts center and says the Arts Council of Princeton is talking with them about presenting a couple of concerts at the venue in September.
According to Liberatori’s E-mail, "Princeton Rep is one of only seven free, outdoor, professional Shakespeare festivals remaining in the United States." Liberatori could not be reached for comment.