The lawn of Saratoga Springs’ Congress Park looks a bit like a beach during the Saratoga Shakespeare Company outdoor production of “Macbeth.”
Coolers, bare feet, ice cream, folding chairs and spread blankets set a scene of summertime relaxation.
This is the 14th season of free Shakespeare in Congress Park. This summer’s production opened July 15 and runs through Sunday.
And despite an ominous forecast of rain, over 100 people came to the opening performance. Saratoga Springs residents have come to expect this annual summer treat.
The main lawn of Congress Park, in the heart of downtown Saratoga, is a natural gathering space for community events. Trees provide a green backdrop behind the stage and a side attraction — fully visible to the left of the lawn — is the duck pond, centered by a jet of bubbling water.
Joggers and walkers move around the perimeter of the audience throughout “Macbeth.” Many of them pause to watch. Since the actors wear tiny microphones, it’s easy to hear from the edges of the lawn.
The background music to “Macbeth” sets an eerie mood, thanks to Griff Jurchak, a young musician who just graduated from high school. David Girard, the play’s director, calls him a “prodigy.”
Jurchak stands amid a metallic jumble of instruments to the right of the audience. He plays a bass waterphone — for “eerie undertones,” said Girard — along with the guts of a piano, gongs, bells and other percussion.
Starring as Macbeth, actor Tim Dugan is every inch the masculine warrior. Amy Prothro joins him as Lady Macbeth. Jurchak’s mother, Leigh Strimbeck, plays Lady Macduff.
The company puts a stylized spin on the production: Almost all props, costumes and set pieces are rust-colored, faded or black. Costumes seem set in Medieval times, with an element of fantasy. For instance, Lady Macbeth’s strappy gladiator sandals climb almost all the way up her thighs.
Almost all Saratoga Shakespeare productions engage with the audience. Actors in “Macbeth” take advantage of a few dramatic monologues to pace up and down the lawn’s center aisle. One porter wanders the lawn freely, singling out audience members for special bursts of drunken commentary — without a doubt, the comedic high point of the play.
The acting company has passed cards around the lawn after park performances in past summers, asking what play the crowd most wanted to see. Popular audience request brought “Macbeth” to the stage this summer, Girard said.
Saratoga Shakespeare draws from the Actors’ Equity Association for many of its stage managers and much of the cast. A partnership with Skidmore College offers school credit to students who intern for SSC. Some of these students attend Skidmore.
Many private donors join their funds with the city of Saratoga Springs and the city’s Public Works Department to make the production possible each year.
Saratoga Shakespeare interns will perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Skidmore College campus at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 31, and Friday, Aug. 1.