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Free Shakespeare run to expand; travel to Springfield

Email|Print| Text size + By Geoff Edgers
Globe Staff / February 14, 2008

A year after a much-criticized decision to cut in half its free Shakespeare production on Boston Common, the Citi Performing Arts Center announced today it will restore some of the lost shows, and travel to Springfield for three performances.

The production of “As You Like It” will run from July 18 to August 3 on the Common’s Parkman Bandstand, and play the Forest Park amphitheatre in Springfield from August 8 to 10.

Last summer, citing a financial crunch, the Citi Center cut the Shakespeare on the Common run from 20 to 7 performances, and the production budget from $1 million to about $500,000. In addition, the Citi Center decided, after the run, not to offer keep on staff Steven Maler, who had put on the Boston Common production since 1996.

This year’s run will cost $660,000, and Maler will direct it as a hired contractor. There will be 15 performances in Boston, and three in Springfield.

“What really played a role is the number of calls we got from people who said, ‘boy, we really would like it to be two weekends rather than one,” said Citi Center president Josiah Spaulding Jr. “Free public programming on the Boston Common is a good thing and if we can take it, and expand it to markets like Springfield, this is a good thing.”

The Citi Center, formerly the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, had experienced an overall budget deficit every year since 2002. Last year’s cutback was part of a larger effort to scale back activities – not only on the Common but in the 3,500-seat Wang Theatre – in an attempt to balance its budget. The Center ended the year with a $271,000 deficit, its smallest in years.

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