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Photo courtesy of BrooklynONE Productions.
Photo courtesy of BrooklynONE Productions.
The cast of "Measyre for Measure" gear up for its performance at Owls Head Park.

Shakespeare will be returning to Owl’s Head Park.

BrooklynONE (bkONE) Productions, founded in Bay Ridge in 2006, is delivering its fifth annual production of William Shakespeare’s work this month, presenting attendees with its production of “Measure for Measure,” a story about justice and mercy in Vienna.

For longtime director and co-founder of bkONE Anthony Marino, the choice for this year’s play was an inspired one.

“Back in 2010, I saw a fantastic production of ‘Measure for Measure’ done by a company in California,” he said. “I made friends with the company and asked them for their cut of the piece. In it, six actors played all of the roles in the show and it was just so engaging and fun. I thought bkONE would produce it at some point, but it never happened until now. I thought using it as our fifth production would be great because out of all the Shakespeare cuts we’ve done, this would be the most innovative.”

Because the play was written in the 1600s, there have been many adaptations and Marino and company are determined to provide a unique take. “We’ve got six actors, two men and four women, playing all the roles,” he said, adding that this production is a new challenge. “The idea is that a group of actors have stumbled upon a Shakespeare festival and from there the show grows organically in the environment. We’ve never tried anything like that before and what we hope for is an intimate and immersive production for the audience.”

Marino said he hopes that audiences will connect with Shakespeare and find his work entertaining. “More than anything this year, I want people to see that Shakespeare can be fun,” he said. “We’ve created a production that allows the audience really to enjoy the work and the actors as they create their characters in front of them. Watching the actors jump from character to character, sometimes within the same scene, is a lot of fun.”

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Like previous years, bkONE has brought top-notch talent into the production, and each actor is given extra responsibility and opportunities to excel. “I feel absolutely blessed to have a dynamically talented cast,” Marino said. “Each is committed to the material and creating so many unique characters. It’s not easy playing multiple roles. Most of the cast has worked with the festival before – so they are excited to be with us again.”

As show time inches closer, everyone in the production has remained dedicated and focused, according to the director. “Rehearsals have been wonderful. We start out at Dimensions on Stage and for the past few weeks we’ve been rehearsing at the park,” he added. “Being able to use the environment during rehearsal means the park itself becomes a true part of the play, not just a location we present it in.”

Although he’s directed several adaptions of Shakespeare’s plays, Marino considers this one especially rewarding. “I love Shakespeare and I’m also very lucky to have Jessica Bathhurst and Joanna Connelly co-directing with me this year,” he said.

As the years have gone by, locals have embraced the growing tradition. “Every year, the response gets better and better,” Marino said. “We usually get around 250-300 people throughout the day coming to hang out and see our performances. I think there is such a desire for performing arts events like this in Bay Ridge, and bkONE has always been about creating something different. The festival just fits right into that. We think this year the response will be fantastic.”

The setting of Owl Head’s Park also plays a special role. “The paved area of the Overlook makes for a natural and cozy playing space,” Marino noted.

To expand the event, bkONE has teamed up with Brooklyn Streetcar Artists Group, which will be doing an art show during the festival. “We have also teamed with the Bay Ridge Rocks! Group that has taken Bay Ridge by storm, and you’ll be able to share/hide rocks and even paint your own rock throughout the day,” said Marino.

“Measure for Measure” will be performed on Saturday, August 12 and Sunday, August 13 at 12 p.m., 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Owl’s Head Park Overlook, 68th Street and Colonial Road. For more information, visit www.bkone.org.

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