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Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’s Last Season at Ludlow and Broome

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Shakespeare in the Parking Lot produced by The Drilling Company opens its season with "Twelfth Night" on July 10. Photo credit: Claire Taddei.
The Drilling Company’s Shakespeare in the Parking Lot opens the season with “Twelfth Night” on July 10. Photo by Claire Taddei.

The Drilling Company kicks off its ninth and final season of Shakespeare in the Parking Lot July 10 with a production of “Twelfth Night.” After performing in the parking lot at Ludlow and Broome Streets since 2005, the company is seeking a new home for its summer franchise: the lot is set to be demolished next year to make way for the New York annex of the Andy Warhol Museum, part of the Essex Crossing development.

On the eve of its last season in its original location, Hamilton Clancy, The Drilling Company’s artistic director, says he’s committed to keeping the franchise in the neighborhood and is working with the LES BID to find a new location. “The Lower East Side is so cosmopolitan and such a novel corner of New York and it’s also not snobbish. It’s one of the last bastions of the real New York and it’s been one of the last great melting pots of the world,” Clancy said.

Keeping Shakespeare in the Parking Lot on the LES is a priority for The Drilling Company as part of its mission is to create new types of theater experiences and plays that attract diverse audiences. The company aims to keep plays accessible and understandable.

Contemporized and relevant, the plays attract regulars and random people who happen to be walking by. The productions are free and audience members bring their own chairs or blankets; seating is first-come, first-served. Funding comes from the New York State Council on the Arts, the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, as well as donations from attendees and other supporters.

Last year, for the first time, the Department of Transportation charged the troupe to use the lot. The DOT, citing a change in the rules for the agency’s 33 municipal lots, said the troupe would have to reimburse the city for using empty spaces at the lot. Eight spaces for $8 a day, or $64 per performance, came to a total of $1,152 for 18 performances.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot began in 1995 with a group called Expanded Arts, which disbanded by 2000. Ludlow 10 then co-produced the shows with The Drilling Company from 2001 to 2005. The Drilling Company, which has a physical theater on the Upper West Side where it produces new plays, took over in 2006.

Originally, when the troupe began working in the parking lot, Clancy thought the LES audience would begin to complement the Upper West Side audience. “As it turns out, the activity in the lot is so unique that I can’t actually brag that it’s changed the traffic to our venue on the UWS,” Clancy said. “However, what I can say is that when people come to see our new plays, they have a richer experience of them because they saw a production in the parking lot.”

An announcement on a new location is expected by the end of the summer. “We’d like to keep it on the LES because it’s always created such a wonderful reasonance. We’ll try to find a place that’s equally welcoming and wherever we go, we will capture that ‘only in New York’, guerilla feeling,” Clancy said.

“Twelfth Night” runs Thursday through Saturday, July 10-26 at 8 p.m. in the municipal parking lot at the corner of Ludlow and Broome streets. The season continues with “Othello,” which opens July 31 and runs through Aug. 16.

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