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(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will present its annual free Picnic Series, featuring performances by The Theatre's prestigious touring troupe, the Next Stage Ensemble, on July 16 and August 6. Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost will be presented on Saturday, July 16, at 5:30 p.m. and Molière's Tartuffe will be at 5:30 pm on Saturday, August 6.

Picnic Series performances are held on the lawn outside the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, 36 Madison Avenue (at Lancaster Road) in Madison. For more information, visit or call 973-408-5600. Performances of The Picnic Series are free of charge and patrons are invited to bring a picnic blanket or lawn chair. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. In the event of rain, the performance will be held in an indoor venue.

The Next Stage Ensemble's will present a one-hour version of Love's Labor's Lost by William Shakespeare on Saturday, July 16 at 5:30 pm. Shakespeare's delightful coming-of-age comedy is a witty and hilarious ode to youthful aspirations, infatuations and follies. The young King of Navarre, and his three loyal friends, decide to dedicate themselves to the "noble pursuit of knowledge" for three full years, locking themselves away from all distraction -- especially women. Their ambitious "ivory tower" is soon shaken, with the arrival of the lovely Princess of France and her three gamesome ladies-in-waiting. Filled with dazzling wordplay, strong comic characters and a few unexpected twists, Love's Labor's Lost not only charms, but also touches the heartstrings of young and old alike. Director Abigail Isaac ("As You Like It" tour, 2010) returns with an exciting new staging of this delicious Shakespeare confection.

The next performance for the Picnic Series will be a one-hour production of Molière's comedy, Tartuffe on Saturday, August 6 at 5:30 pm. Although banned by France's religious leaders after its first showing, Molière's biting and witty comic masterpiece quickly became a runaway hit and has remained so since its public reopening in 1669. When Orgon, a gullible and wealthy family man, invites the seemingly pious Tartuffe to stay at his home, he is convinced that he has joined a noble cause. Despite the warnings of his family and friends, Orgon holds his friend in the highest regard and showers him with gifts and money and even the offer of his daughter's hand in marriage. The family soon lays traps to expose the true nature of the mysterious stranger. Will their efforts be too late? Will anything convince Orgon that Tartuffe is not all that he seems to be? Will harmony ever be restored in the Orgon household? Just wait and see! Directed by Mike Donahue, Tartuffe remains a deliciously scathing attack on hypocrisy, false piety, hollow morality and gullibility; delighting and taunting as effectively now as when it was first penned.

The Next Stage Ensemble was created to cultivate the work of early career actors and provide an opportunity for them to perform using ensemble-based methods. Ten actors from across the nation were selected to participate in this year's troupe. In addition to The Picnic Series, the Next Stage Ensemble will give approximately 50 performances throughout New Jersey. While rehearsing and touring two productions, the actors receive training in intensive master classes with highly acclaimed acting instructors. For the first five weeks of the program, the actors work with professionals from all over the nation in order to prepare them for the tour. The productions will tour to about 30 venues across the state, ranging from retirement homes to community centers. In addition to touring, the actors will also understudy roles in The Shakespeare Theatre's main stage productions.

originally published: 2011-07-10 21:21:41

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