By Kevin Zimmerman
Give Titan Theatre Co. and the Queens Library one night a month for the next three years, and they will bring you each of Shakespeare’s plays.
The theater group known for its innovative Shakespeare productions — including a “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where cast members found out which role they would play each night at curtain time, and this past April’s all-female version of “Othello” — will present free staged readings.
Everything from “All’s Well That Ends Well” to “Winter’s Tale” can be heard at library branches around the borough.
Shakespeare in Queens kicks off Monday evening in Forest Hills with “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“We wanted to start with a bang,” Lenny Banovez, Titan’s artistic director, said. “We wanted to lead off with a comedy that was a title everybody knew. But not a title we had done recently.”
That crops up at the November reading in Jamaica when Titan tackles “Othello.”
“The library wanted ‘Othello’ second,” Banovez said. “We’re going to go back to a more traditional performance.”
Traditional is not an adjective used to describe this innovative theater group, which started performing at the Long Island City comedy club The Creek and The Cave in 2009.
Last year the Queens Theatre tapped Titan to be its resident acting company at the landmark Flushing Meadows Corona Park facility. The move enabled Banovez to expand his programming, including the addition of a new version of “A Christmas Carol” that returns this December, and to reach an audience beyond its western Queens’ base.
If that was the first step to growing the company, contacting the library about a reading series would be the second.
“This is really our first outreach program,” Banovez said. “It is part of our attempt to become a real theater company and not just a producing entity.”
By taking the Shakespeare show on the road, Titan benefits by getting introduced to library patrons who may not know anything about the group, Banovez said.
The library also benefits with new programming that is provided free of charge by an up-and-coming member of the Queens cultural community.
“It is a really interesting project,” Joanne King, the library’s communication director, said. “It is literature related as well as entertaining.”
After “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Othello,” Titan plans to present “The Merchant of Venice” in December and “Antony and Cleopatra” in January.
And because the evening readings will be kept to a strict two-hour window, Banovez and cast members will circle back periodically to lead discussions on the previous couple of readings.
“In lieu of us not having time for a talk-back session, after every three or four plays audience members will be able to sit down with us and discuss the plays in a non-rushed manner,” Banovez said. “It’s the library’s idea. It’s a great idea.”
If you Go
Shakespeare in Queens
When: Monday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 pm
Where: Queens Library, 108-19 71st Ave., Forest Hills
Contact: (718) 268-7934
Reach News Editor Kevin Zimmerman by e-mail at kzimm