Rounding out this exciting, experimental summer season at Bay Street Theater is musical classic Camelot, which shall be retold as a staged outdoor concert in Bridgehampton beginning Thursday, August 5. With a story as timely as ever, told in a magical setting that allows for more intimate connections between characters, actors and audience members, this is shaping up to be one of the Sag Harbor theater’s most fascinating productions to date.
Bay Street Artistic Director Scott Schwartz is directing the production, translating the book and lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Lowe to this new outdoor format and taking notes from the small cast David Lee adaptation. By “taking the show and stripping away the pageantry” Schwartz intends to zero in on the complex relationships and interactions between the show’s love triangle—Arthur, Guenevere and Lancelot—and demonstrate how deep and rich these characters truly are. However, fans of the show know that there’s much more at play than just romance, and the themes of justice, peace and righteousness are especially relevant today.
“I’ve been thinking about what we’ve been through in terms of the pandemic, and I was certainly thinking about all of the strife that our country and the world has been going through politically,” Schwartz explains. “I thought that to do a show about people who are in a time of struggle but working to make things more equal, more just and more fair felt like exactly the right kind of work to be exploring right now.”
While unable to receive Sag Harbor Village approval for the use of Steinbeck Park, the alternative—located at 2011 Montauk Highway, Bridgehampton, across the street from the Bridgehampton Commons in the field behind Carvel—turned out to be more than Schwartz could have hoped for. “It’s so magical! It feels like you’re in this Celtic circle of trees,” he says, adding that with nature being so important to the beliefs of the Camelot era, the space furthers the connection between the show and its source material. “Camelot felt like a show that would not only work outside, it would actually benefit from being outside.”
The main cast chosen to breathe passion into the story’s love triangle comprises Jeremy Kushnier as Arthur (Rent, Jersey Boys, Footloose); Britney Coleman as Guenevere (Company, Sunset Boulevard, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical); and Deven Kolluri as Lancelot (Pride and Prejudice, Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?, The Boy Who Danced On Air). Their supporting players include Amaya Grier, Kyle Lopez Barisich, Aaron Dalla Villa, Hope Hamilton, James Harkness, David LaMarr, Cecelia Ticktin and Kevin Wang.
With the play’s emphasis on interpersonal connections between its three main characters in mind, we gathered the actors around the Round Table to discuss their personal connections to these characters and their thoughts on this outdoor retelling.
Britney Coleman, Guenevere
“She brings a lot of the bubbly joy to a lot of the sections of the show. Having gone through what we’ve gone through in the last almost two years, thinking about the effort it takes to dive into self-care, to bring joy into your life, I think it’s much more of a conscious decision now than before the pandemic.
“There are references to magic in the show, it talks about seeing Merlin in the moon in one of our scenes, and it’s just that glorious moment in theater when you can look up and the moon is in front of you. … I think the design of our show is really cool, mixing this modern edge with the softness of nature and Celtic undertones, and I think that’s going to be something that’s really interesting, an image that people recognize and can connect with when they come see the show. … We don’t really have a backstage, so it’s all open and I feel like we’re going to be in this space just as much as the audience. And I’m thinking from an audience perspective, being wrapped up in this story where there isn’t as much of a boundary from onstage versus offstage will be a really cool, almost communal experience.”
Deven Kolluri, Lancelot
“One part of the life of being an actor that I really appreciate is being in process—this idea that the work is ongoing—and that’s something that’s very true for Lancelot, as well. Even though he’s achieved some sense of perfection in a lot of people’s eyes, for himself, he’s constantly going through this process of becoming better and becoming this ideal. … My interest in being in process as a theater artist finds that in a really fun and interesting way, and I can allow myself to be in process while figuring out this character.
“The character is a foreigner who finds that in a lot of ways his world gets broken when he gets introduced to this woman and shows up in this new place, and there’s something about being outside … and finding this sense of what feels like home onstage and then everything being broken and having to put it back together again and make sense of something. That process of theater … I’m excited to do it again, in a new space and with a bunch of new faces, and for the character’s journey, to put these things back together so he can understand himself in a new and different way.”
Jeremy Kushnier , Arthur
“In the early stages of discovering, for me, Arthur and how he exists in the world, the one thing that jumped out to me was how earnest he was as a character in general. For me personally, I tend to play very opposite types of characters; I tend to be shoved into Mordred and Iago just because of the way I look. I love playing those characters, but I never really connected the same way. … I’m enjoying the connection with this character that I feel more connected to in his hopefulness for wishing for something better, a place where people can just be good to one another and that the powerful use that power to take care of the less powerful.
“For most of us in the show, it’s our first time back on a stage with lights in our faces and other people that close and not in a Zoom box. One of the big themes in this show is storytelling; it’s what we do for a living, and it’s what we do because we love it, and it’s something that has sort of been taken away from us in a lot of ways for the past little while … so getting to do that again but also getting to tell this story, which is a story about finding a way to exist in a world where the rich people pay their g*ddamn taxes and the people that are supposed to take care of us take care of us. To be able to try and tell that story now is, I think, really important.”
Tickets to Camelot, which runs August 5–29, start at $45 and are available through the box office by calling 631-725-9500 or by visiting baystreet.org. The outdoor Bridgehampton space allows for 200 guests to be seated at a safe distance from one another, plus plenty of room for parking.