Shakespeare on the Hudson

Sat, 11/01/2008 - 5:00pm
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Host Kristin Chenoweth

Julie Cohen

While the comedy of mistaken identity and love unfolds onstage at the critically-acclaimed Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival (HVSF), Shakespeare on the Hudson, airing Saturday, November 1 at 4 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11), gives viewers an intimate look at the backstory and theatrical process of preparing for and performing Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to a sell-out crowd. Tony Award-winning Kristin Chenoweth hosts.

Shakespeare on the Hudson follows the troupe’s core actors through all the real off-stage drama as they prepare for opening night, from the high-pressure auditions and callbacks to the final moments backstage before the performance begins. The documentary highlights the story of veteran actress Maia Guest, who lands the part of Feste during auditions but worries whether she can pull it off – an anxiety that’s amplified because she is also the director’s wife. A pair of rookie actors from Minnesota also struggle to prove they have what it takes to perform Shakespeare before their fellow cast mates, skeptical New York critics, and theater-goers.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Hudson Valley at Boscobel, a stunning 19th-century estate, a group of dedicated and talented actors assemble each year to perform a Shakespeare classic. With full access to the HVSF troupe, Shakespeare on the Hudson intersperses interviews with cast members Maia Guest, Paul Bates, Wesley Mann, Max Polski, and others with behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage to reveal the dedication and passion that these working actors have for their craft – many of whom have impressive television and film credits but still return to the HVSF to do regional theater.

The documentary also examines the frustrations and challenges that the director and actors face of pulling together a first-rate production that is true to the original work but still accessible and relevant to a modern audience – all in time for opening night.

WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) will broadcast the complete production of Twelfth Night: The Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival on Sunday, November 30 at 11 p.m.