Hilo Community Players present annual Shakespeare in the Park in drive-in format amid pandemic

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Theon Weber, playing Iago, rehearses a scene with William McGregor, playing Montano, during an Othello dress rehearsal outside the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on Monday, July 20, 2020.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Alya-Joy Kanehailua, left, and Angie Nakamura, who play Desdemona and Emilia respectively, react during a scene of Othello while rehearsing the play outside the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on Monday, July 20, 2020.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Jarren Amian, center, delivers a monologue as Othello during a dress rehearsal for the play outside the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium in Hilo on Monday, July 20, 2020.

The show must go on — safely — which means Shakespeare will move from the park to the parking lot this summer.

Shakespeare in the Park … ing Lot, the Hilo Community Players’ 43rd annual Shakespeare in the Park production, will present “Othello” at 7:30 p.m. tonight through Sunday and Aug. 6 through 8 (weather permitting) in the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium parking lot.

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Admission is free but donations will be accepted.

Because of COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, the show will be presented in a drive-in format.

“Creating live theater during this pandemic has presented a really interesting set of challenges,” said Rachel Klein, president of the HCP board of directors. “The health and safety of our cast, crew and audience is paramount and we have worked to find innovative ways to provide safe options for everyone to enjoy. … Our board of directors was determined to present Shakespeare programming this summer and we have been very lucky to have (director) Sarah Elliott, with her creativity and adaptiveness, leading the way.”

The stage is one of the largest and highest the group has built outdoors, she said, and the audio will be broadcast on an FM radio station. Concessions will be delivered to cars and there will be an all-digital program in effort to keep everyone safe.

“It’s been a lot of new things to figure out, and we’ve spent a tremendous amount to make it happen,” Klein said. “We thank the county and the many individuals who have and continue to make donations. It’s only with tremendous community support that we have been able to persevere through these challenging times and continue to bring live theater to the Big Island.”

While it’s “wonderful” that many theaters are doing performances and readings via Zoom, Elliott said “there’s nothing like that sort of in-person, audience-to-performer kind of magic when you’re right in front of each other. It’s live theater. It’s very safe and we’re hoping that everybody feels safe and comfortable enough to come and watch.”

Elliott said the production is innovative.

“… And we also realize that we have a responsibility to the rest of the island,” she said. “We are the only group doing live theater right now. We realize that how this production goes will be looked at and perhaps lay the foundation for live theater in this crazy pandemic world because who knows when things are going to get back to normal.”

They’re hoping for a good turn out, but Elliott, who called “Othello” Shakespeare’s “most perfect tragedy,” said it’s hard to predict the response the program will get.

Individuals sharing a vehicle should be limited to a single household or social exposure bubble. Chair/truck-bed seats will be allowed but must be contained within the assigned parking stall.

Bathrooms and concessions will be available on site, but masks will be required when outside of your vehicle, including traveling to and from assigned parking stalls.

Hilo Community Players’ annual Kid Shakes program will offer an online presentation of “Oh, Hello!”, an “Othello” adaptation written by Justin Mattos, an assistant professor of performing arts at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and directed by Alston Albarado.

“Oh, Hello!” will premier this month and be available on the HCP YouTube page.

This production is aimed at a PG-13 audience because of more mature themes and issues within the play.

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For more information about either performance, visit www.hiloplayers.org.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.