A good end

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The mechanicals

Tara’s lovely goodbye post would seem to be the perfect ending to this year’s coverage of Summer Shakespeare’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  I wanted to make sure that I got my last thoughts out as well, though.

First of all, I want to talk about the show itself.

I’ve been watching or participating in Summer Shakespeare shows since 2010, and I must say that this has been the best I’ve seen yet.  I can even admit that, having been in a production of Midsummer myself in 2011.

One of the things I am most glad about is that I was able to see the show twice–once inside (due to bad weather), and once outside.

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Titania and Oberon

When I realized that my first night would be inside, I was naturally disappointed.  My guests had come a long way to see this play, and I wanted their experience to be to the full.  As soon as the second act began in the basement “rain room,” though, I realized that I shouldn’t have been too concerned.  The intimacy of the smaller space raised the energy of the performers and the audience alike.

My guests and I loved Puck’s genderless impishness, the lovers’ comic timing, and the hilarity of the mechanicals.

If the rained-out show was entertaining, the full show was absolutely magical.  The physical comedy sparkled even more with the forest to play off of.

I also got to see the fairies literally in their element: they became equal parts perilous and

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Titania’s fairies

enchanting (as they should be).  Their makeup was incredible, and seemed to fit the forest perfectly.  Oberon and Titania were dangerous and powerful, making use of the atmosphere and dominating the space.

Their fairy retinues, though, were positively hypnotic.  Even though they had few lines, these actors (predominately new comers to Summer Shakespeare) were all entirely invested.  Their focus, movement, songs, and dances created the atmosphere and transported the audience.

I was amazed by the dedication of the cast, especially since so many of its members were new to the program this year.  Every scene displayed their understanding of the Summer Shakespeare’s mission, and their enjoyment of sharing that mission with the audience.

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Lysander and Demetrius 

As director Ron Parker said to me after the show, this minimalist production was really returning to Summer Shakespeare’s roots.  Not only is this accurate in a technical sense, but I think in a relational one as well.  Among the cast, there was a different kind of excitement than I remembered.  The students had a sense of themselves as pushing boundaries and being forged together as a team against great odds.  I imagine this is how the first cast of Summer Shakespeare felt back in 1986, when they were raiding dumpsters for set materials.

Overall, I thought that this year was a fitting celebration of Summer Shakespeare’s 30th anniversary.  Parker and the cast and crew have so much to be proud of.  I can’t wait to see what they will come up with next year.

 

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Summer Shakespeare, assistant director Corrie Riedl has put together a lovely video of past and present students saying what Summer Shakespeare has meant to them.

Give Me Your Hands: Guest post by Tara Pohlkotte

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This morning the woods are quiet. Besides one sharp squall of a hawk as it searches for fish along the Fox River, nothing rustles in the leaves or makes sound.

The last of the show has been taken down.  The costumes back on the rack, stools taken off the path, props and makeup back in their rightful places.

And yet…

The hustle and merriment of 30 teenagers still seems to echo in the long monastery halls. The laughter of the audience tucked the corners of the chapel windows.

Out here in the woods, something feels different than it did before.  It’s not noticeable on first glance…all appears to be as it was just two weeks ago.  But if you look closer, there are footprints and signs of a scuffle between lovers where there wasn’t one before. A broken twig with the slightest strand of webbing left behind by Cobweb. A lone flower head that fell from Titaia’s bed… Remnants of the magic that came to life these past few weeks.

After all, isn’t this what all theatre is? Magic. Words written by hands many years before by a playwright more often than not long gone, brought to life again and again, casting a spell on the audience and cast for a short while before it too, is gone.

This incredible cast and crew of students were a part of weaving that spell for all of us these past two weeks. Braving extreme heat, unpredictable elements and terrine, they found the grit within themselves to make the woods come alive for 400 audience attendees. They gave life to these often tired lines, and in doing so introduced my own spell bound children in the audience to Shakespeare for the first time. And now, all too quickly it seems it has past.

After my final look at the woods, I head back up the hill when something moving catches in the corner of my eye.  I turn back to look seeing only the sunlight dancing through the leaves, but the woods seem to whisper the laugh of a knavish sprite….

 

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.