Brookfield may be a long way from the beach, but a theatrical troupe based in Oak Park plans to transform the sand volleyball court at Ehlert Park, 4338 Congress Park Ave., into the Massachusetts shore every weekend this month.
Habakkuk Theatre in partnership with Open Door Theater in Oak Park will stage “Coastal Disturbances,” the winner of the 1986 Tony Award for Best Play, written by Tina Howe.
Performances are at 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from Sept. 4 to Sept. 26, plus a Labor Day show on Sept. 6 at 4 p.m. Tickets are $18 each and can be purchased before each show or ordered ahead by visiting online at habakkuktheatre.org.
While Ehlert Park was the longtime home for a very popular haunted house around Halloween, and hosted a circus about a decade ago, it hasn’t hosted a serious theatrical production in anyone’s memory.
“We’d love to be able to use Ehlert Park for more of these types of events,” said Brookfield Recreation Director Stevie Ferrari. “It’s a creative way to use the space. I think this is great.”
“Coastal Disturbances” follows four generations – a photographer romancing a lifeguard, two former college roommates and an older married couple on vacation – contemplating their lives ahead as they sun themselves on a beach on Massachusetts’ north coast. The nine-member cast, who range in age from 7 to nearly 70, is directed by Hilly Doyle.
Tina Shelley, a Brookfield resident who is the artistic director for Habakkuk Theatre, said “Coastal Disturbances” is a personal favorite, but she assumed she’d never get the chance to produce it.
“This particular play was always on my bucket list, but I knew no one would ever let me bring two tons of sand inside their theater,” Shelley said.
The inspiration for the production came while Shelley and Doyle were walking through Kiwanis Park and passed the sand volleyball court there. Doyle pointed it out and said, “Why not just do it right here?”
“We just ran with it,” Shelley said.
Founded in 2017, the nonprofit Habakkuk Theatre was to have performed its productions at Open Door Theater in Oak Park, but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed those plans. But, when Shelley pitched Open Door Theater’s artistic director Mary Pat Sieck on partnering to produce “Coastal Disturbances,” she enthusiastically agreed.
The actors have been rehearsing at the Ehlert Park sand volleyball court through some pretty sweltering and, at times, stormy, conditions. They’ve also gotten a chance to get used to performing in a public park that will remain very much open during their performances.
“I think it’s been good for the actors to work through the different elements around them,” Shelley said.
Anyone attending the show is asked to bring their own chairs and will be encouraged to sit close to the “stage” because there won’t be any sound equipment amplifying the actors’ voices.
The play, which includes an intermission, will run about two hours. The Ehlert Park concession stand/restrooms will be open. People can also bring their own snacks, if they choose.
If all goes well, Shelley said outdoor theater in one of Brookfield’s parks might become a regular thing.
“I’ve talked about co-producing Shakespeare, maybe one of the lighter plays, a comedy, next summer,” Shelley said, saying the Kiwanis Park band shell could be a perfect setting.