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‘Reopening Night’, About Staging Shakespeare in the Park Amidst COVID, on HBO

Reopening Night on HBO
(Image credit: HBO)

Reopening Night, a documentary about New York’s Public Theater preparing to stage an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in Central Park amidst COVID, debuts on HBO December 20. The Public Theater is behind Shakespeare in the Park. 

The film is directed by Rudy Valdez and executive produced by Matthew O’Neill and Perri Peltz. 

“Contending with the ever-present threat of COVID-19 and one of the rainiest Julys on record, the production marks the return of live theatre following more than a year of closures in the city,” said HBO. “Their pursuit to bring back a longstanding beloved New York City tradition is an audacious gamble for the theater which has served as the creative heartbeat of New York City for almost six decades.”

Reopening Night chronicles the 12-week journey to opening night of Shakespeare in the Park in summer 2021. The Public Theater’s adaptation of The Merry Wives is “a modern retelling set in South Harlem’s eclectic community of West African immigrants with an all-Black cast,” said HBO. “In the wake of the pandemic’s on-going toll and the societal reckoning that followed the murder of George Floyd, Merry Wives centers the Black experience and celebrates Black joy within the universal story of Shakespeare’s play.”

Those featured in the film include playwright Jocelyn Bioh, director Saheem Ali, The Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis and set designer Beowulf Boritt, as well as the play’s cast. ■ 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.