CAPE MAY – The Physick Estate has had an outdoor stage for many years, but according to Ken Bingham, producer of “The Comedy of Errors” for the Cape May Shakespeare Festival, it has not been used on a regular basis since the 1980s.
A Cold Spring resident, Bingham is a literature professor at Drexel University, and he has been producing theater up and down the East Coast for about 20 years.
“I live here, we are bringing up our kids here, but I’ve never produced a show here – and it scares the hell out of me,” Bingham said.
Bingham said he was nervous about producing a show before a home crowd, but at the same time he wanted to give back because he feels Cape May has given him so many gifts. He recently approached the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities about putting on a show at the Physick Estate.
“The Physick Estate put on a lot of shows in the 1980s, mostly musicals, so they have been off theater for a quarter of a century and are ready to do again,” Bingham said.
Bingham said he talked with MAC executive director Michael Zuckerman, and with the board, and the matter was discussed for about six months – what shows to offer, when it should open, settling on dates.
Bingham said he didn’t always have a passion for producing Shakespeare.
“Growing up I hated Shakespeare,” he said.
When he was 25 or older, he said, he took a trip to London and saw Shakespeare performed live at the Globe Theatre.
“It came alive for me and it changed my life,” he said.
Bingham said he started searching for a production company to bring Shakespeare to life for other people the way it was for him in London. He said he found the REV Theatre Company, whose director, Rosey Hay, was from the Royal Shakespeare Company in London. According to Bingham, Hay came to the United States in the 1980s to direct Shakespeare in the Park in New York City. She is now working in Philadelphia and New York City.
Bingham said he believes Shakespeare, who wrote in the 16th century, continues to speak to everyone today, especially when performed by the REV Theatre Company.
“The way they put it on is musical, it’s vibrant, it speaks as if some wrote it today,” Bingham said.
Bingham said “The Comedy of Errors” is being staged with a cast of 16, including some good local actors, including Annika Marks, 13, who he worked with on “Hamlet” at West Cape May Elementary School, and who is making her professional debut.
Bingham said “The Comedy of Errors” will run for two weeks, and he hopes it will turn into a 12-month event in Cape May. “The Comedy of Errors” was Shakepeare’s first play, and he thought it appropriate that it be the first play for the Cape May Shakespeare Festival.
He described “The Comedy of Errors” as a “madcap romp” of mistaken identities, put to music.
“It’s a laugh-a-minute show, and we put it on to vibrant music and have all kinds of acrobatics off-stage. We’re trying to explore every comedic element Shakespeare brought to it – it’s a grand, large play,” Bingham said.