Reading Theater Project Turns Museum Grounds into ‘Nature’s Studio’

Photo courtesy of the Reading Theater Project.

The Reading Theater Project turned the Reading Public Museum’s Arboretum into a live theater stage in their latest production, “In Nature’s Studio.” On July 25, the benches throughout the museum grounds hosted actors, dancers and musicians performing original work.

The performances, some lasting all 90 minutes and others repeating throughout the evening, were free and open to the public. “In Nature’s Studio” was inspired by RTP Executive Director Vicki Haller Graff’s walks through the Museum Arboretum with her son and dog. The idea to set up a performance outdoors also came from the unique circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Through the isolation of the pandemic, it was a highlight of our day,” Graff said. “We started brainstorming together – yes, with my 10-year-old! – ideas like having music in the park or actors performing among the trees.”

Photo courtesy of the Reading Theater Project.

The Museum liked the idea, too, and “In Nature’s Studio” was born. RTP rounded up some performers and writers and gave them near-total freedom to create whatever they wanted, as long as it fit the theme “In Nature’s Studio.” Throughout the creative process, the writers and performers would regularly get feedback from the RTP production team, comprised of Graff, Jewell Brown and Sean Sassaman.

Photo courtesy of the Reading Theater Project.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to work outside and with an institution like the Reading Public Museum,” Graff said, “and to offer new theater for free to our audience and to people enjoying the park.”

The performance coincides with the Museum’s art exhibition “In Nature’s Studio: Two Centuries of American Landscape Painting.” This exhibit, showing American landscape paintings from the Hudson River School and Impressionist, Tonalist and Modernist movements, is on view until Sept. 6.

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