YOU'VE heard of New York's Shakespeare-in-the-Park...

Salmagundi

June 10, 1994

YOU'VE heard of New York's Shakespeare-in-the-Park productions? Try delivering "To be or not to be" while standing next to a three-ton air coolant unit. Or maybe with Baltimore City police helicopters flying overhead.

These are a few of the obstacles faced by the Hopkins Classic Players, a loose group of current and alumni dramateurs who put up productions of classic theater on the university's Homewood campus. Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," their third production, opens today and runs six performances.

This is not theater in the conventional, indoor sense. Without the acoustical benefits of an enclosed space, lines must be delivered over wind, thunder and traffic on Charles Street.

The audience sits on beach towels. And backstage is a hallway in nearby Ames Hall.

As for the air conditioner, "It's used to cool the animal labs downstairs," said director Ryan Whinnem. "They can't turn it off for performances so I guess we'll just have to be loud."

Mr. Whinnem, a '93 Hopkins grad, along with current student Raul Jocson, founded the group last spring. Their first production was "Romeo and Juliet" last year. During "Cyrano de Bergerac" this April, it got so dark Mr. Jocson incorporated lighted torches as props for the last three acts. The evening of the final performance brought such strong winds the audience returned from intermission in overcoats.

The players say they enjoy the looseness and purity of this type of theater. All shows are free and open to the public. Which seems only fair since the group has nothing even resembling a budget.

"Everyone supplies their own costumes, scripts, props. We try not to buy anything," the director says.

Classic theater sans pretensions. That might be good for the Bard. Performances today and tomorrow are at 6:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday. Same times for June 17-19.

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