A new documentary covering The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park production of Jocelyn Bioh’s Merry Wives is coming to HBO. Check out the trailer above for Reopening Night, featuring Bioh, director Saheem Ali, and a number of theatre folks working on the project.
The play, adapted from Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor and centered in South Harlem amid a vibrant and eclectic community of West African immigrants, was one of the first shows to open in NYC following two events that significantly impacted the theatre industry: the COVID-19 shutdown that began in March 2020 and the social justice reckoning following the murder of George Floyd and others in June that year.
Chronicling the 12-week journey to opening night in summer 2021, Reopening Night looks at the challenges to mount an outdoor production with new health and safety guidelines in addition to exploring the Black experience in theatre. In addition to Bioh and Ali, the film includes interviews with Public Theater Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, set designer Beowulf Boritt, musician Farai Malianga, assistant director Abigail Jean-Baptiste, and cast members from Merry Wives.
Reopening Night will premiere December 20 at 10 PM ET on HBO and HBO Max. The film is directed by Rudy Valdez and executive-produced by Matthew O’Neil and Perri Peltz.
A separate film capture of Merry Wives was announced by PBS in August, but no release date has been set.