It seems people either love Shakespeare or don’t get Shakespeare. And now Plymouth Community Theatre is planning its second Shakespeare on the Rock production for this summer. But there’s a catch.

It seems people either love Shakespeare or don’t get Shakespeare. Many from both camps, however, swarmed to Plymouth Harbor last August to take in the Plymouth Community Theatre production of his romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing.


Now the theater company is planning its second Shakespeare on the Rock production for this summer. But there’s a catch.


By PCT President Bob Hollis’ estimate, about 1,200 people watched the outdoor production of Much Ado. The number would have been higher but, of the four scheduled performances, one was cancelled because of a lightning storm (“We decided no one should get hit by lightning,” Hollis quipped, “least of all the actors!”). And of the 1,200, about a hundred sat through light showers to enjoy one show. That left 1,100 or so spread across the lawn watching two star-lit performances.


This year Hollis and his theater company hope to put on six shows over two weekends in early August – Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, when the daytime tourism flood has tapered. It won’t cost much more to put on two extra performances of this year’s choice – Hamlet. But it will cost. And that’s the big challenge facing Plymouth Community Theatre.


The actors perform for free – it’s everything else that costs money. Staging, electricity, sound systems, the director, costumes all add up. Fortunately, Hollis says, the theater company gets several in-kind donations to help offset the $15,000 expense. Last year, Massasoit Community College provided the staging and production assistance by the school’s fine arts coordinator (and Much Ado actor) Mark Rocheteau. Local firms helped with lighting and certain other aspects of putting on the event. But Plymouth Community Theatre virtually wiped out its bank account putting up the $5,000 (along with $1,200 from the local Visitors Services Bureau) needed to make it all happen. Hollis says the 2-year-young nonprofit theater company simply can’t afford it. To make it happen this year, the group needs sponsors.


Massasoit will partner with the Plymouth Community Theatre production again, as will Devanaugh Theatre, in Boston, where Hamlet (and PCT’s Much Ado and Book of Days) director and Plymouth native Dani Duggan serves as artistic director. Plymouth Community Theatre will be able to work donations through Devanaugh’s 501(c)3 nonprofit status to make them tax deductible. In an ideal world, a single sponsor could make the difference. In this day of economic challenges, though, multiple sponsors are welcome.


Why? Why would anyone want to sponsor Shakespeare on the Rock?


“This is free classic theater,” Hollis said. “There is a real hunger for it. We had about 1,100 people turn out for two performances! This year we’re going to offer six, so even more can attend. Last year, people said they wanted to have it again. It’s exposure to the arts at no cost. How many of us didn’t read Shakespeare in high school? This is a great opportunity. If the weather holds, I think we’ll draw about 3,000 people.”


And, of course, the experience could drive increased interest in PCT as well as other local theater productions.


Sponsors will see their names in lights. Sponsorship signs attached to the stage will remain in full view for the couple of weeks it’s parked in the park, and sponsors will be listed in the program. Thousands of tourists and locals will see the stage and note that these folks are putting up the funds to make this theater experience available.


And Hollis says it can’t help but be a tourism draw – go to Plymouth, experience downtown and the waterfront, have dinner, and cap off the day with a free performance of Hamlet.


“On top of the publicity, sponsorship is altruistic,” he said. “It’s in support of the arts. Plymouth has developed a great reputation for its artistic programs. We hope someone will decide this is worthy of their support.”


The play about Prince Hamlet of Denmark dealing with the vast familial and political ramifications of the murder of his father, the king, was written in about 1600. It has been performed by some of the world’s leading actors. In modern times, Hamlet was played by John Gielgud, Lawrence Olivier, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Ralph Fiennes and Mel Gibson, among others. In Plymouth, Hamlet will feature a cast of about 20 experienced local actors.


Plymouth Community Theatre has put on several stage productions in the past year and a half. Book of Days, performed at the Plymouth Center for the Arts last May, was its first drama, and Hollis said its enthusiastic patrons called for more.


The dark tragedy of Hamlet balances the comedy PCT produced on the harbor last year. Hollis says subsequent Shakespeare productions will alternate between the playwright’s comedies and dramas.


And this year, he says, tough economic times contrast with years of prosperity. Nevertheless, he says, the show must go on.


“Last year was so good we have to do this again,” Hollis said.


Prospective sponsors can call Hollis at Hollis Insurance Agency, 508-209-0400.