Roxann Kraemer, as Leontine, in Hudson Warehouse’s production of ‘Triumph of Love’.

By Gus Saltonstall

It was a picturesque evening last Friday night as the Hudson Warehouse Theater group presented their adaptation of the Triumph of Love on the steps of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument at 89th and Riverside.

Named by L Magazine as the “Best Outdoor Theater” in New York in 2009, the theater company has been putting on shows in Riverside Park since its conception in 2004.

Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Nicholas Martin-Smith and Assistant Artistic Director Susane Lee, the theater company combines first-rate acting and costume design with the beautiful backdrop of the setting sun over the Hudson River to truly create one of the more delightful experiences on the Upper West Side.

“Outside theater is essential. It’s old school, going back to the original form, taking it outside and bringing it to the people,” Martin Smith said.

The theater company’s mission statement is very clear—there is no charge for admission.

“Hudson Warehouse’s mission is to provide quality, exciting, innovative, and affordable-classical theater to the community. The Warehouse believes theater is a ‘ware’, and essential for daily life. To this end, the Warehouse doesn’t sell tickets, but has a ‘pay what you can’, policy because of the arts should be affordable to everyone. Those unable to pay are still welcome because the Warehouse believes everyone deserves to have the theater experience, because theater is so essential to what makes us human.”

Innovation is integral to the way Hudson Warehouse puts on their shows. While past productions include commonly performed works such as Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare and The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde, they also have been known to add a particularly contemporary twist to their interpretations. That includes an adaptation of Aristophanes, Lysistrata, where Lysistrata is modeled after Sarah Palin, who consults leading members of the Republican Party to practice sexual abstinence until their candidate Ronald Triumph is elected to the Presidency.

Peter Francis James, an actor and an advisory board member of Hudson Warehouse, says of the theater company, “It is not a grand spectacle of what dollars can produce, although donations and support are important to any enterprise. Rather, you’re witnessing what commitment, talent, ingenuity, and an immediacy with the audience produces when these plays are encountered so genuinely.”

In 2013 the Hudson Warehouse also won the Goddard Riverside Community Center Good Neighbor Award in recognition of its “extraordinary deeds in helping build a better community.”

Their work in the community goes far beyond the summer shows—they are also the Resident Theater Company of Goddard Riverside’s Bernie Wohl Arts Center at 91st and Columbus Avenue, where they put on year-round shows.

They also hold Hudson Warehouse Shakespeare workout sessions throughout the summer for actors of all skill levels, and have a Writer’s a Go-Go program that allows playwrights to submit their own work to be acted out by the Hudson Warehouse actors in the informal setting of a bar at different times throughout the year.

They even serve as the informal caretakers of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. “We are very proud to be in Riverside Park and we are a steward to the beautiful monument,” said Assistant Artistic Director Susane Lee.

While they don’t charge for tickets, they do still pay their actors. “Using the same actors, and directors creates a community. We really do have a family,” said Martin-Smith.

Those salaries are through the donations of patrons, and the more generous can expect to get some hand, delicious perks in return—including “lawn chairs and a cheese plate for the show.”

Put simply, the Hudson Warehouse Theater Company is a hidden gem of the Upper West Side and Riverside Park. And, it is a gem that deserves to be found by more people, as there are few better ways to enjoy a summer’s night than watching Shakespeare as the sun goes down behind one of the neighborhood’s most majestic spots.

Hudson Warehouse will be putting on shows every week this summer at the steps of the Solders’ and Sailors’ Monument at 89th and Riverside Drive, at 6:30 pm, Thursday through Sunday. Later this summer, they’ll be putting on The 3 Musketeers. See their schedule here.

ART | No comment | permalink