Shadowland starts its 30th season with Greater Tuna

Jim Ligon and Michael Irvin Pollard in Greater Tuna

Brendan Burke of Shadowland Theatre grins like a kid when asked how things are going. The artistic director, actor and stage director kicks off his Actors’ Equity destination venue’s 2014 season this week, nearly a month earlier than usual. And he’s buzzed by the prospects.

Shadowland started 30 years ago as an experiment, an attempt to bring New York City quality drama and musicals to a small jewel of an upstate theater and turn it, and its community, into a cultural destination. And it worked, drawing some big names in its founding years, including the likes of Judd Hirsch and Orson Bean, as well as a great mix of works each year with sterling casts. Eventually, some great restaurants opened up in the vicinity, Burke came on board, the theater was renovated, and programming began to expand.

What’s hitting the boards over the next few months in Ellenville?

The seven-production season kicks off on Friday, May 2 with the Texas-based comedy Greater Tuna, starring veteran Shadowland actors Jim Ligon and Michael Irvin Pollard. Following that will be David Lindsay-Abaire’s Tony-nominated play, Good People, which explores the troubles of a single mother struggling to make ends meet, and the fireworks that happen when she confronts a more fortunate old friend. Good People runs May 30 to June 15, and will be directed by Burke. From June 20 through July 6, expect fun and revelation in the trio of woven monologues taking place in a Midwestern funeral home that is the setting of Jeffrey Hatcher’s Three Viewings. That will be followed July 11 through August 3 by a comedy about two rookie cops and a pretty accountant trying to bust their mayor in an ill-fated undercover sting operation, Unnecessary Farce, also directed by Burke.

The 30th season at Shadowland continues with the country western musical, Honky Tonk Highway, with Michael LaFleur directing, from mid-August into early September; Deanna Jent’s riveting play Falling, in September, about the complicated reality of a family with an autistic young man, and finally the fall musical blockbuster, Side by Side by Sondheim, in revue style with hits from the likes of Company, Follies, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, West Side Story and Into the Woods.

“What a way to celebrate 30 years of producing live theatre,” Burke said. “Our capital campaign was a marriage of our needs and ambitions. Over the last two years, we’ve been able to make the necessary repairs and modernizations to our buildings, which has allowed us to follow our ambitions and expand our programming beyond the typical summer months.”

Shadowland Theatre season productions, May 2 - late September; 8 p.m. on Thursdays; Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.; $39; 157 Canal Street, Ellenville; (845) 647-5511; www.shadowlandtheatre.org. 

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