BATTERY PARK — Shakespeare has found a new home at the southern tip of Manhattan.
Shakespeare Downtown, a newly formed nonprofit theater company, is slated to perform the Bard’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers, "Romeo and Juliet," at Battery Park’s historic Castle Clinton this spring — for free.
Billie Andersson, the artistic director of Shakespeare Downtown — who’ll also play Juliet in the company’s inaugural performance run — said she and her husband, director Geoffrey Horne, formed the company specifically to bring performances to Castle Clinton, a designated national landmark.
“We’ve lived Downtown for years and one day I was passing Castle Clinton — a place that used to be a cultural center for the city in the 1800s — and I thought, 'This space is so beautiful and it would be perfect for Shakespeare performances,'” said Andersson, a longtime theater actress and producer.
“Here’s a lovely venue in the city to bring Shakespeare to the public, have it be open air, like it was originally performed, and in such a historic space.”
Horne, a director and teacher for about 30 years at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film institute, has led several productions of Shakespeare plays throughout the years.
The group plans on holding free shows from May 19 through June 27, Tuesday to Saturday, starting at 8 p.m. For now, there’s no ticketing system, Andersson said. The space can hold up to 600 people, so seating will be first come, first served.
Castle Clinton, built in the early 1800s, has been used as a military fort, a theater, a beer garden, the country’s first immigration station and even an aquarium.
Andersson said she hopes to make Shakespeare in Castle Clinton an annual event, like a Downtown counterpart to the popular free Shakespeare performances in Central Park.
"They've done such a wonderful job with Shakespeare in the Park, and I think we have such a perfect venue Downtown in Castle Clinton for Shakespeare," Andersson said. "We're excited to see what this will become."