Scott Schwartz, the Artistic Director of Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, spoke with Hamptons.com to share his enthusiasm for and insight regarding this season’s lineup of live theater at Bay Street. This is his 8th season at the helm, and he started by thanking the loyal Bay Street audience and Board for their strong and wonderful full support, both financially and emotionally during the challenges COVID-19 presented Bay Street.
Schwartz started off by saying, “There is a lot to talk about. I am excited about the talk about the new theater, but what I am most excited about right now is the fact that we are going to be producing live theater again at Bay Street this summer. That is an amazing feeling for me as an Artistic Director and I believe it’s going to be a wonderful thing for our whole community. We are back and I am just thrilled about it!”
So, what’s coming up this summer at Bay Street? Schwartz shared, “We have a lot coming up this summer. Some really innovative new stuff that’s different from what we have done before and some stuff that will be, I hope, very exciting to our audience. We have three major pieces of programming that will run through the whole summer. There is Becoming Dr. Ruth, which is the first show of the season.”
Schwartz went on to rave about the production’s star, Tovah Feldshuh. “It’s really, in my opinion, what Tovah does best. Inhabiting a character, but also inhabiting that character’s whole world. You get a picture of this woman’s [Dr. Ruth] life, spanning from Germany during WWII, where she had to flee Frankfurt, Germany, her home, as a child and she went to Israel. Actually, she was in the Israeli army as a sharpshooter. She moved to France, then came to America. You get this journey of over 50 years. Tovah does it wonderfully, the show is funny and amusing, but it is also very moving and very powerful.”
Becoming Dr. Ruth will run from Friday, June 4 through Sunday, June 27. “A great way to start back up! We are going to be in the theater, the performances are live, indoors in our theater,” he noted. “It will be a socially distance audience, and we are requiring everyone be vaccinated. A totally safe environment. I want the audience to know we are taking all the steps necessary.”
The next summer season program will be an immersive video experience. Schwartz explained, “Come July we have this really cool new program that we are creating for the first time. It is called Wonder/Wall. It is going to be this innovative festival of video design of immersive video experiences, which are going to be in the Bay Street courtyard, so this will actually be outdoors. Very safe for the audience because only 20 people at a time will be coming in to view these shows. It will be a combination of a video experience that will surround the audience like the immersive Van Gogh show in New York, that’s what these pieces are kind of like. Obviously, they won’t be Van Gogh, but you will walk into the courtyard at Bay Street, which will be transformed into this four-wall space.”
He continued, “Each show is only 15 minutes long. You come in and everyone will be in a little circle, 20 people at a time but socially distanced, and will experience this 15-minute show that will happen all around you, and each show will also have a live performer. There will be movement, there will be acting, there will be text, and there will be this amazing video surrounding. It will be all on the theme of wonder. They will be delightful. For example, one of the pieces is a rift on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, one of the pieces is a rift on Frankenstein. One of the pieces is a very personal piece by a wonderful artist named Brittany Bland, about her own life and family. She was born and raised in Harlem. The first piece by artist Rasean Davonte Johnson is a piece reflecting on the pandemic and the experience of the pandemic as told through video, but in a fun and exciting way. All the shows are very modern and very contemporary in their approach using cutting edge technology and live performers. We kind of are inventing this. Mike Billings, our brilliant video, tech guy, is very involved in putting the whole thing together. We have commissioned designers from all around the country, including L.A., Chicago, and one from Yale, along with our team from Bay Street. Each show is for one week, with five performances of the show per night.”
Schwartz gave a lot of credit to new Assistant Artistic Director Josh Wilder, who conceived and curated the festival. “He is a really talented writer, dramaturge, and producer, who also happens to be based in L.A. We have been working with him remotely, but he will be starting with us out here [in Sag Harbor],” Schwartz said. “We are really excited about this. We are already talking that if the audience really enjoys it, we may do more of it in the future.” Wonder/Wall can be seen Tuesday, July 6 through Saturday, July 31.
About the season finale, the Artistic Director shared, “Last but not least, we are going to be doing a production of Camelot, the musical. It is a show I have loved forever. It is based on The Once and Future King, which is also one of my favorite novels of all time. It tells the story of King Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, and their love triangle, and of Camelot. When we were programming this season, I thought what show can speak to our time, coming out of a pandemic, along with this time of racial reckoning and awakening in America. Along with great political change and upheaval. We are still in a time where we are learning and struggling to make the world better. I thought what better show than Camelot, about a time when a man, King Arthur, and his queen Guinevere and Lancelot tried to build a more just and more equitable and fairer world, and they succeeded for a while. There was this glowing time where things were better. To see this show about those people and about this time that’s so romantic and so passionate and frankly so intimate about these people’s journey and their struggle.”
He added, “I am hoping this show will be inspirational, but actually here is the other thing, we are planning on doing the show outdoors which I think will be a fantastic setting for the show. We haven’t announced the location yet, because we are still doing some negotiations. The location will be within ten minutes of Bay Street.”
About the cast for Camelot, Schwartz said, “I can promise you the talent is going to be wonderful. I can’t announce anyone yet, they are all going to be well-known Broadway performers. One thing I am excited about this version of Camelot is that it is an adaptation that was done ten years ago by David Lee. He really focused the story on the most romantic core of the love triangle. We have this company of actors, a cast that is really representative of our country in terms of ethnic and racial makeup. It’s going to be a very diverse cast.”
Lastly, he announced that there will be no Bay Street Gala this year, just private dinners that are now in the organizational stage. Again, he thanked all the Bay Street supporters who engaged in the online virtual teaching programs and to all the people who financially support and enable Bay Street to be a premiere live theater venue.
Bay Street is located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit www.baystreet.org.