Pictured Above: A scene of Shipwrecked!  L-R: Jabari Carter, Paul Henry, Aurea Tomeski, and Bruce Cromer. Photo Credit: Sarah Haley.

Theatre Under the Stars—A Tradition Continues at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

By Anthony Stoeckert

Arts News Now Features Writer Anthony Stoeckert Interviews with Director Douglas West about “Shipwrecked – The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself). Shipwrecked runs through July 30th at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, NJ.

It wouldn’t be summer in New Jersey without The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s annual outdoor show.

Each year in July, the Shakespeare Theatre presents a play under the stars at the Greek-style amphitheater on the Saint Elizabeth University campus. The productions are almost always a delight—entertaining, accessible, and on the shorter side, they are enjoyed by all and are an especially good introduction to theater (in particular, classic theater) for young people.

Pictured Above: L-R: Jabari Carter, Bruce Cromer, and Aurea Tomeski. Photo Credit: Sarah Haley

Audiences arrive early and bring a picnic dinner to enjoy before the show, actors make their way into the audience, and the cast is prepared for interruptions, both expected—airplanes flying overhead—and unexpected—many years ago I was at a performance that was interrupted by fireworks so many times that the cast, in character, decided to take a break and enjoy the spectacle.

This year’s outdoor presentation is Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) by Donald Margulies, which is running through July 30, and is directed by Douglas West, a longtime veteran of the Shakespeare Theatre.

Describing the play, West says Louis de Rougemont (played by Bruce Cromer) takes over the theater so that he can share the story of his amazing life. Comer is joined by Aurea Tomeski, Jabari Carter, and Paul Henry as three players who assist Rougemont.

“(It’s a) 30-year odyssey full of shipwrecks, sea monsters, a tribe of Aborigine, true love, and a faithful dog,” West says. “Louis plays himself, and the other three play all of the characters he encounters during his amazing adventure. There are some other twists and turns, but I’d rather not give those away. The events in the play were inspired by an actual person and events that took place in Victorian London. The ‘real’ de Rougemont turned out to be a man named Henry Louis Grin, who, after gaining tremendous fame and wealth from publishing his story, was uncovered as a fraud and subsequently lost all that he had gained. The Louis of our play is far less nefarious.”

Pictured Above: Paul Henry and Aurea Tomeski. Photo Credit: Sarah Haley

West says he is especially intrigued by Shipwrecked’s exploration of the art of storytelling, adding its characters are great storytellers, which means the actors have to be great storytellers.

“I also appreciated how much the play requires the audience to engage their imaginations,” he says, noting it features a minimal set and four actors representing more than 30 characters.

“I knew it would be a blast for the cast and the audience, while also being a challenge for me,” he says.

West has been with the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey since it staged its first outdoor show in 2002, and he loves this annual tradition, both as a viewer and as an artist.

“As an audience member, I love the way that space transforms from show to show to show,” West says. “I always look forward to the first time I come over the little hill where our box office tent is set up and I see what this year’s set looks like. As an audience member and a long-time company member, I love that I always get to see actors that I know and love out on that stage.  As a company member at the Shakespeare Theatre, I love how different the experience is for our audience out there.”

Pictured Above:  Bruce Cromer and Jabari Carter.  Photo Credit: Sarah Haley

Shipwrecked is also notable as it is the Shakespeare Theatre’s final outdoor show under the stewardship of Bonnie J. Monte, who has led the company as its artistic director for 33 remarkable years.

“The Shakespeare Theatre’s Outdoor Stage is one of the things that I am most proud of having created over the course of my long tenure here,” Monte says.  “Without question, the Outdoor Stage is one of the most challenging and difficult endeavors in which we engage each year, but it is also one of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of our artistic programming.  Global warming and the effects of climate change have significantly increased our list of challenges, and have prompted numerous discussions about the viability of continuing to present plays outdoors, but each time we debate the issue, we all arrive at the same conclusion, which is that the pro list far outweighs the con list!

“There are few things as thrilling as walking up to the beautiful Greek amphitheater on the campus of Saint Elizabeth University, and seeing the hillside filled with hundreds of people, young and old, eagerly anticipating seeing a show performed under the moon and stars. It’s an extraordinary venue that conjures up visions of what it must have been like in ancient days as the Greeks and Romans gathered in their amphitheaters to view both comedies and dramas al fresco.”

Monte adds that the outdoor shows are always comedies, so that those planes—from nearby Morristown Airport—can be incorporated into performances, much to the audience’s delight.


“Thousands of people have made our Outdoor Stage productions part of their ‘must-do lists’ each summer for over 20 years now,” Monte says. “It is our best audience development tool and it is an amazing theatrical gift that we can provide for people each summer.”


Bonnie and West both noted that the shows are affordable, and offer free admission for children 17 and under.

When asked if he has any favorite memories of past shows, West says there are too many to name.


“There have been so many great productions out there during my time with the theater, and most of my memories are about watching so many of the artists that I’ve been fortunate enough to see and work with over the years,” he says. “Watching an audience appreciate the work of someone you know and love is a fantastic experience.”


But there is one memory that stands out for him.


“There was a time when a groundhog stole a piece of my set for The Servant of Two Masters and tried to carry it into their hole with them,” West remembers. “We found the missing piece of fabric about 50 feet from the stage, sticking about halfway out of the groundhog hole.”

Shipwrecked! An Entertainment—The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (as Told by Himself) is being performed at the Outdoor Stage at Saint Elizabeth University, 2 Convent Road, Morristown, NJ, through July 30. For show times, tickets and information, go to ShakespeareNJ.org.

Pictured Above:  Bruce Cromer.  Photo Credit: Sarah Haley

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