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Behind the scenes at Shakespeare in the Grove

Tidewater Community College’s Shakespeare in the Grove is considered a community gem by many.

 In the 26 years the show has been running, attending has become a tradition for families from all over the region. Ed Palmer, a veteran actor, says that the tradition is not only special for families but actors as well. Over his 17 years with the production, he has seen the same families in the audience each year and has had the opportunity to see children grow up as they attend the event and learn to love theater.

Autumn Ibanez (Mariane), Ed Palmer (Dorine) and Robert Torres (Valere) rehearsing on the Grove stage. 

Shakespeare in the Grove is also a fan favorite due to the unique appeal of outdoor theater. In an outdoor setting, the audience can be comfortable and relax while enjoying the play. Guests are encouraged to bring picnic blankets and lawn chairs as well as their favorite picnic dinner. This event is free and family members of all ages are sure to enjoy it.

The Grove production is presented by TCC Theatre and the Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission and marks the start of summer.

This year’s production of Shakespeare in the Grove is “Tartuffe” by the French playwright, Moliere. Tartuffe is a captivating story about fraud and betrayal. The classic plays that TCC Theater performs have something in them for everyone. Palmer explains, “These plays are timeless because they are about the human condition. Everyone can relate to the themes of love and loss.”

Ed Palmer (Dorine) and James Manno (Tartuffe) celebrate after perfecting a scene.

Shakespeare in the Grove is as special to the actors as it is to the audience. Many of the actors return year after year and create a close-knit community as they prepare to, once again, bring live theatre to Chesapeake. Veteran actor, Autumn Ibanez, says that she “continues to come back to Shakespeare in the Grove because the actors are so supportive, and it makes for a great learning experience.”

Assistant Director, Michelle Jenkins, agrees that being involved in the production is an amazing opportunity to learn from experts. Whether on stage or behind the scenes, the cast and crew work side-by-side with theater professionals. Many of whom have been working on Shakespeare in the Grove for over a decade.

Cassandra Dean (Cleante) and Cristina Rose (Orgon) practice their craft during their first outdoor rehearsal.

When asked what advice these veteran actors would give to people interested in joining the production for the first time, all three said, “Do it.” They encourage anyone with a passion for theater to overcome the intimidation and get involved. Based on the support system found in the cast and crew, new actors will find a welcoming environment.

Join TCC Theatre for this year’s production on June 21-25 at 8 p.m. on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus, 1428 Cedar Road. For more information, reach out to Matthew Gorris at Gorris is TCC Theatre’s faculty lead and this year’s Grove director.

TCC celebrates the 25th anniversary of Shakespeare in the Grove with “The Tempest”

Tidewater Community College Theatre celebrates its 25th season of Shakespeare in the Grove with a magical and mesmerizing presentation of “The Tempest.”

The free public performances will be held June 22-26, starting at 8 p.m., weather permitting. For those in the Deaf community who would like to enjoy the show, American Sign Language interpreters will be interpreting the June 26 performance.

This year’s production will take center stage on the Grove stage, located behind the Pass building on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus, 1428 Cedar Road. A cast and crew of more than 35 student and veteran actors will bring this popular Shakespeare play to life.

Shakespeare in the Grove got its start with a “passion and a plank” according to founder Ed Jacob, the faculty member with the idea to launch outdoor theatre on TCC’s Chesapeake Campus with its grove of trees and open spaces. What started in 1996 with four platforms to perform on, a limited budget, scenery and simple costumes has grown into a professional production with a full stage, vibrant costumes, lights and plenty of technical support.

“People enjoy the atmosphere of Shakespeare under the stars. It’s summer. It’s a free event. And there’s something about being outside and hearing that old, romantic sort of verse and enjoying a picnic,” said Matthew Gorris, TCC Theatre faculty lead and artistic director.

Shakespeare in the Grove plays are pared down to roughly two hours.

In “The Tempest” the main character Prospero uses magic to conjure a storm and torment the survivors of a shipwreck, including the King of Naples and Prospero’s treacherous brother, Antonio. Conflict ensues but in the end, families are reunited and all conflict is resolved. TCC’s version of the play takes on magical elements, with an untouched island setting, complete with sprites to entertain and monsters to mesmerize.

“`The Tempest’ is a story of redemption and celebration that is especially fitting after the pandemic,” said director Trey Clarkson. “Our story is a celebration with live music, live dance and magic to fill the air as we commemorate 25 years of Shakespeare in the Grove.”

“Shakespeare in the Grove at TCC is a local gem – there’s absolutely nothing like it in the area,” added Gorris.

Shakespeare in the Grove is sponsored by TCC and the Chesapeake Fine Arts Commission. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, blankets and a picnic dinner; insect repellent is also recommended.

For more information, contact Matthew Gorris at or 757-822-5219.

Getting ready to perform “Hamlet” in 2012.