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Reopening Night directed by Rudy Valdez
Reopening Night directed by Rudy Valdez (HBO / via Youtube)

HBO feature documentary, Reopening Night, follows the cast, crew and staff of the world-famous Public Theater as they prepare to mount an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives,” at the open-air Delacorte Theater in New York City. 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. 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.

Directed by Rudy Valdez (HBO’s “The Sentence”), Reopening Night debuts Monday, December 20 (10:00-11:30 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO.

Reopening Night chronicles the challenging 12-week journey of The Public to navigate an obstacle-filled path to opening night of Shakespeare in The Park in the summer of 2021. Building on the work of founder Joe Papp and the long-held principle of The Public that art and culture belong to — and should be accessible to — everyone, the theater invites playwright Jocelyn Bioh to adapt Shakespeare’s comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor into a modern retelling set in South Harlem’s eclectic community of West African immigrants with an all-Black cast. 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. Reopening Night presents an honest look at the Black experience in theater, acknowledging the challenges and speaking to the expansive power of art to touch people’s lives, as well as to be at the forefront of change and progress.

With behind-the-scenes access to the creative process, from the casting and rehearsals to the design team to the construction of the all-weather set in Central Park, Reopening Night takes audiences on a roller-coaster ride as opening night swiftly approaches. Among the many voices contributing to the film are: playwright Jocelyn Bioh; director Saheem Ali; The Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis; set designer Beowulf Boritt; musician Farai Malianga; assistant director Abigail Jean-Baptiste; the actors in the cast of “Merry Wives”; and many more crew, staff, and theater artists who bring the works of The Public to life.

Reopening Night weaves together the thrill of watching a behind the scenes look at a unique production and a team of lively characters pulling together to overcome myriad hurdles with the inspirational realization that history is being made on the stage of The Delacorte Theater. Reopening Night documents a unique challenge as The Public strives to embody its aspiration that everyone should get to see theater, and that everyone should get to make it.

Watch the official trailer for >Reopening Night.

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