2018 Season, 20th Anniversary Season, Boom Artists, Indie Theatre Community, Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

A Feast of Clowns: A conversation with Vinnie Penna and Spencer Aste

Boomerang’s TWELFTH NIGHT continues thru July 15th in Central Park.
Recently, Artistic Director Tim Errickson chatted with Vinnie Penna (Sir Toby) and Spencer Aste (Sir Andrew) about playing Shakespeare’s clowns in this celebrated comedy.

Vinnie Penna (l) as Sir Toby Belch and Spencer Aste (r) as Sir Andrew Aguecheek in TWELFTH NIGHT

Tim Errickson: Ok, first question…Shakespeare’s clowns are some of his best characters. What do you think makes them special?

Vinnie Penna: Speaking truth to power.

Spencer Aste: Absolutely! I always feel like the clowns don’t realize they’re funny.
I always consider them a bit sad.

VP: They also have an uncanny knack of knocking the snooty off their pedestals.
There’s definitely sadness in both Toby and Andrew.

TE: How so?

SA: They’re searching for something to make them complete. Andrew wants to be loved. He wants female companion.

VP: I don’t want to speak for Spencer, but in the case of Toby, at least the way I view him in this production, this is a guy who saw some shit in the army and has really only found solace in the bottle. However, over time, he realizes how important he is to Maria

SA: I also think Andrew knows to the core he’s not a great fencer, dancer or bear baiter. He just wants everybody else to believe that and he wants to believe it himself.

TE: There’s an easy parallel from Sir Toby to Falstaff…

VP: Well, sure, and that was probably intentional on Shakespeare’s part. What’s Twelfth Night’s subtitle? “What You Will?”

SA: Absolutely! And one of Andrew’s line, “take it how you will.”

VP: Falstaff commits a lot of thievery, though, and I find him considerably meaner than Toby.

TE: That’s fair. I think in terms of their (Toby and Falstaff’s) one time bravery, and their conclusion that they no longer want that for themselves. And I think there’s allusion to lots of other people for Sir Andrew, from Don Armado in LLL to Dogberry to a degree

SA: I agree.

VP: That kinda goes along with Sara’s idea that there’s a “crack” in the world in Illyria and madness reigns. “I’ll confine myself no finer than I am!”

TE: For Sir Andrew, I think what makes him so unique is that he’s not just a blowhard like a dogberry, but there’s something more there.

VP: He’s so goddamn weird.

Vinnie Spencer Blues Explosion (1)
Spencer Aste (l) and Vinnie Penna (r)

TE: So how hard is it to bring these guys to life outside? What are the challenges and the pleasures of it?

SA: Playing them balls to the walls! Hehe! Loudly!! I always feel like acting in a comedy I try to make them as serious and tragic as I can. Trying to be funny always fucks me up.

VP: Yes. Playing a clown and trying to be funny is as effective as playing a villain and being all BWAH-HA-HAAAA!!!

SA: Totally!

VP: The pleasures are many. This is a very talented company and they’re very much on their toes, so if something changes or a line is inflected a bit differently (depending on how drunk I decide to play a scene), they are prepared!

TE: Do you play scenes differently knowing you have to reach the “cheap seats”? Meaning, father back, partial view etc…

VP: Louder, maybe?

SA: Yeah. I always try to make the person I think will hate the show, laugh.

TE: Does it take certain choices away? Like smaller things?

VP: Sure. I’ve been in a constant debate with myself about whether or not I’m shouting the whole time. I know I’m not, but still…

SA: I also feel like I’m shouting, which lessens my vocal range. But yes. I think small choices can’t be seen or heard.

VP: Definitely not in the cheap seats.

Vinnie Penna as Sir Toby and Spencer Aste as Sir Andrew in TWELFTH NIGHT

TE: How about working together…how long have you actually known each other?

SA: 22 years, i think.

TE: Really?

VP: We talked about this during rehearsal. We met in 1996.

TE: Where? How?

VP: At the Westbeth. Spencer played a clown in that one too! Topless!

SA: Hehe!! I did!!

TE: And how many times over those 22 years have you appeared together?

VP: Thrice, I think.

SA: I think that’s right, but having done readings and Congregation (Play Reading Group) and seeing each others work it feels like a lot more.

TE: Obviously Twelfth Night and (Boomerang’s 2010 production of ) The Tempest, although you might not have had scenes together in The Tempest…

VP: We were in the shipwreck and the last scene together, but we exchanged no dialogue.

TE: That’s kind of awesome…first scene and last scene!

SA: Bookends!

TWELFTH NIGHT continues with two more performances this weekend (July 14th and 15th) at 2pm. More details here, and to make a $25 donation to support Free Theater, click here.


2017 Season, Bardi Gras, Boom Artists, Boomerang Support, donations, fundraising, How you can help, Indie Theatre Community, Loveless Texas, New Plays, Shakespeare

Photos from BARDI GRAS

Thank you to everyone who attended BARDI GRAS on Tuesday Feb 28th at Madame X. A great time was had, music was in the air, and we raised some much needed funds for LOVELESS TEXAS coming up in Fall 2017.

Did you miss the party, but still wanted to contribute to the madness? Click here!

Here are some pictures of the shenanigans…courtesy of Isaiah Tanenbaum Theatrical Photography!

2017 Season, Boom Artists, Boomerang Support, fundraising, How you can help, Indie Theatre Community, Opportunities, Planning, Shakespeare

Grab yours masks and beads…It’s BARDI GRAS on February 28th!

For one night only, the sultry nights and cascading music of New Orleans come together with the poetry of Stratford Upon Avon. Tap into the spirit of the night for some romance, cocktails, masks, beads and adventure…


Mark your calendars and prepare to style yourself as a Shakespearean character, a famous New Orleanian, or a provocative mash-up of your own design. Masks are optional… and just a little decadent.

Welcome to the night you have been longing for.

2015 Season, Boom Artists, Indie Theatre Community, Shakespeare

A Cymbeline Q&A with Amanda Jones and Brian Robert Burns

Artistic Director Tim Errickson sat down with Amanda Jones (Imogen) and Brian Robert Burns (Posthumus) to talk about their roles in Boomerang’s current production of Shakespeare’s CYMBELINE, directed by Boomerang Associate Artistic Director Cailín Heffernan. CYMBELINE runs thru July 19th in Central Park.

Amanda Jones as Imogen and Brian Robert Burns as Posthumus in CYMBELINE
Amanda Jones as Imogen and Brian Robert Burns as Posthumus in CYMBELINE

Tim Errickson: Hi guys! We’ll start with Amanda…Amanda, you’ve worked with Cailin a few times now. How did you guys meet?

Amanda Jones: A few years ago, I was playing Marie Antoinette in a show called “The Color of Flesh.” (great title, right?)

Brian Robert Burns: Makes me think of “Silence of the Lambs”…

AJ: The director, Bob Kalfin, brought her in to teach us period manners and movement, in which Cailin is something of an expert. (She had less to teach me. Everyone else bows to the Queen; the Queen just stands there and looks grand)

TE: And then you also appeared in Love’s Labour’s Lost for us last summer that Cailin directed.

AJ: That’s right! She emailed me late one night to ask if I would be interested in replacing someone who had dropped out. I said yes right away.

TE: Had you worked together between LLL and Color of Flesh?

AJ: She’d called me in to audition…But otherwise, no. She just has an amazing memory.

TE: Brian, you had just finished up the National Tour of War Horse before this, right?

BRB: It always kinda feels* like we just got back from tour. A lot of the memories and experiences are still so fresh, and a lot of the cast has stayed in pretty frequent touch. However, we got back in late August and I think auditions were in… April?

TE: Something like that, I think. How long were you on tour?

BRB: Over two years. 800+ performances, 70+ cities. I’m very fortunate.

Amanda Jones
Amanda Jones

TE: That’s incredible. Let’s talk about Cymbeline. For both of you, what’s been your favorite thing about working on this play?

AJ: Can I say more than one thing?

TE: Sure, say anything

AJ: First, Imogen is a wonderful character. One of my professors in college just loved her, and he got me loving her, too. She’s been on my list since then. She’s such a badass, not passive, but funny and tough.

TE: Someone said this is your dream role, right?

AJ: It is. One of them, anyways. There’s a list, but it isn’t long. And second, working with Brian. And everyone else. Boomerang finds amazing people, so committed and dedicated and talented.

BRB: I discovered how satisfying it is to do Shakespeare outside. When you’re in a box, you fill the box as best you can, you hit the back wall, etc. When you’re outside, literally, the sky is the limit. When you look out, it’s into the horizon. When you look up, you look up into infinity and you can fill it with all you can muster. It’s limitless. Also, this is just a tremendous group. I’m very fortunate to be working with such talented generous people.

TE: Had either of you seen the show or worked on Cymbeline before this production?

AJ: I saw the Lincoln Center production with Martha Plimpton.

BRB: No- it’s so epic I always wondered how someone would pull it off. I had worked on a scene here and there, but I was always Pisanio or Iachimo.

TE: It’s a large play, to be sure, and I think that’s why it isn’t done as much and one of the reasons we are excited about doing it.

BRB: Except for this year! its crazy– Cymbeline is everywhere!

AJ: I know. I’m very glad we’re not overlapping with a certain other production, to escape any comparisons to a certain other Imogen.

BRB: I agree. This one is solely ours.

TE: We’ll fare just fine in any comparison.

AJ:I believe it.

Brian Robert Burns
Brian Robert Burns

TE: In the play, you two play lovers who are separated right away. How do you approach playing a relationship that’s fully in motion right from the start? Rather than playing people who meet and fall, which has already happened for your characters when we meet them in the first scene.

AJ:It’s crazy right? We have like ten lines to establish a relationship. And less than that to reconcile at the end.

BRB:In a way it’s nice to not have to show how we are with each other. And with Amanda it’s so easy.

AJ: The feeling is mutual. I think the chemistry we have certainly helps. And we were able to establish some back story during table work.

BRB: At that point when we first see them, love is easy and exciting. I feel the nature of their relationship in this play, the passion etc, comes from our behavior when we’re away from each other. That can be just as telling about the relationship as it is about the individual. How you represent your relationship to others when your partner isn’t around is quite revealing. Imogen makes Posthumus better than he is. And we see that by the way he bumbles around without her, creating fires.

AJ: I think the thing I loved discovering most – because lots of people said things like, “Why does Imogen stay with that jerk?” – is that Imogen is as quick to believe that Posthumus has betrayed her with another woman when it comes up. She gets past it more quickly, but she also has Pisanio backing her up.

BRB: Yes- proximity is, in itself, a form of security. And they’ve never been away from each other! It’s terrifying!

AJ: Right! I think there are a few examples of couples in Shakespeare who think they are Epic and Their Love Is Like No Other (as all young lovers do). And it’s wonderfully dramatic (and funny) to see them thrown off balance when they realize things are more complicated than that.

Amanda Jones as Imogen in a scene from CYMBELINE
Amanda Jones as Imogen in a scene from CYMBELINE

TE: In addition to being separated right away, you both have a lot of singing and dancing to do in the show.

BRB: And, for my part, falling apparently!

AJ: Yes! So fun!

TE: Had either of you sung or danced much in previous shows?

AJ:A bit. I did more musicals in high school and college, but I’ve always loved to dance.

TE: Brian how about you? You also have a lot of guitar playing in the show.

BRB: Not so much. There was only one show that i can think of. Similar to this one, it incorporated a lot of music, dance, and fight choreography. A lot of dance, a lot of capoeira. It was pretty cool. I enjoy it, but I rarely get the opportunity to do it. There was some community singing in War Horse too, but not any dancing. I don’t really think I’ve played guitar in a show before… this might be the first! And, man playing in a fifteen person band in public is awesome!!!

AJ: I’m so in awe of the multiple-threats in this show. Cailin really makes the most of everything everyone can do.

BRB: The amount of talent is staggering.

TE: She loves the triple threats, that’s for sure

BRB: The way Michael (Russink) and Roger (Lipson) and Hannah (Hartmann) make their transitions so seamlessly and effortlessly is incredible.

AJ: Seriously.

Brian Robert Burns as Posthumus in a scene from CYMBELINE
Brian Robert Burns as Posthumus in a scene from CYMBELINE

TE: Alright, last question….When you aren’t performing in Cymbeline, what are some of your favorite summertime NYC activities?

AJ: Midsummer Night’s Swing at Lincoln Center: So sweaty, so worth it. Movies, to cool off. Getting an ice cream and walk all the way east or west to the riverside in the evening to catch a breeze.

BRB: I live right by Astoria Park, so on the sunny days, I’ll head there and read and get some sun. Being from California, the sun and water are rejuvenating to me, and the park affords me both. I also write and record my own music and train in Mixed Martial Arts at Tiger Schulmanns. But eating ice cream is the best. Amanda, looks like we need to get ice cream…

TE: I had no idea you trained MMA, Brian. That’s incredible.

AJ: He told me I have “heavy hands” (Edit: an MMA term to describe someone who punches very hard) when we were learning our fights. I was so proud!

BRB: Better to hang on to you with, lady!  I’ve been a fight sports fan all my life and finally this year I decided to fit a mouth piece and get after it. I love it.

TE: Have you had any bouts?

BRB: Actually, I’m just starting to learn. Building a foundation. I think by the end of the year, I’ll enter an in-house tournament. But right now, I’m just learning basics and technique. Hitting pads and such. Plus, my mother would kill me if I ever actually fought!

AJ: Poor mom.

Cymbeline runs July 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th at 2pm in Central Park (enter at 72nd and Central Park West) Additional details can be found here. Cymbeline is free, no tickets or reservations are required.

2015 Season, Boom Artists, Boomerang Support, donations, How you can help, Indie Theatre Community, Shakespeare

Donate today for a chance to win Broadway tickets!

Support Free Shakespear legitWe are moving closer to our goal of 200 donations of $25 to support our Outdoor Shakespeare program. Thanks so much to those who have already donated!

As an incentive today…each $25 credit card donation before 6pm today is entered for a chance to win two tickets to see SOMETHING ROTTEN! on Broadway at the St. James Theater this Spring!


“The time is the ’90s — the 1590s. Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are desperate to write a hit play but are stuck in the shadow of that Renaissance rockstar known as The Bard. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first musical!

Every donation in increments of $25 is another chance to win ($25 gets you one chance, $50 gets you two chances and so on…).

The opportunity to win two Broadway show tickets for $25? You can’t beat that anywhere in town!

Remember this only lasts until 6pm today. Please donate to support our production and enter to win!


Shakes Support

Please click here to make a tax deductible donation.
And click below to share with friends!

If you’d prefer to send a check, please make it payable to Boomerang Theatre Company and send it to P.O. Box 237166 Ansonia Station, New York NY 10023

2015 Season, Boom Artists, Boomerang Support, donations, How you can help, Shakespeare

Be Part of Team Shakespeare!

Support Free Shakespear legitSince 1999, Boomerang Theatre Company has provided free productions of Shakespeare’s greatest plays on summer afternoons in parks throughout New York City. These productions are a vital part of New York City’s cultural life, allowing any audience member a chance to attend the theatre without the burden of a ticket price.

For many people, it’s their first time ever seeing a play.

We’re back for our 17th Season in the park with Shakespeare’s late magical romance CYMBELINE, and we need your help to make these extraordinary moments continue.

We’re seeking 200 donations of $25 to support this program by Friday April 17th at midnight. Won’t you play a part?

Please click here to make a tax deductible donation. 

Thank you !
Tim and Sue

If you’d prefer to send a check, please make it payable to Boomerang Theatre Company and send it to P.O. Box 237166 Ansonia Station, New York NY 10023

2014 Season, Boom Artists, Indie Theatre Community, Shakespeare

Promo Photos for LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

Hi folks…here are a few pics from Bryant Park’s photo shoot for LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST. More to follow!

(photo by Ethan Lercher for Bryant Park Shakespeare)



2014 Season, Boom Artists, Shakespeare

Artwork for Love’s Labour’s Lost

For anyone who hadn’t seen the remarkable artwork for LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, here it is again. Stefano Imbert has outdone himself this season, which includes this piece and the art for A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. LLL is directed by Boomerang Associate Artistic Director Cailín Heffernan.

LLL Artwork Final

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST opens August 14th in Bryant Park at 7pm. The production runs until August 30th.

Would you like to make a donation to support the show? We value your financial support now more than ever.
Thank you in advance!


2014 Season, Boom Artists, Indie Theatre Community, Shakespeare

First Rehearsals for LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST

On Monday July 14th, we began rehearsals for our upcoming production of LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST,directed by Boomerang Associate Artistic Director Cailin Heffernan. I wanted to share a few pics from the table read. Yes, there are a lot of people in this tiny room!

pic 1pic 2pic 3pic 4

LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST runs August 14th-30th in Bryant Park (42nd Street and 6th Avenue)

Would you like to make a donation to help support this production? Please click here!

2014 Season, Boom Artists, Indie Theatre Community, Shakespeare

Join us for the Midsummer finale weekend!

Folks…we don’t want you to miss one of the final two performances of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM this weekend in Central Park. Please join us!


by William Shakespeare
Directed by John Greenleaf

Saturday July 19th and Sunday July 20th at 2pm
in Central Park (71st Street and Central Park West)
enter at W69th or W72nd Streets

Admission is Free!
No tickets, no lines, no hassle
Just bring a blanket, a picnic, a friend or nothing at all!


We’ll see you there!