Fans of broad comedy, stylish poetry and visual extravaganzas rejoice! It’s time for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s annual Shakespeare in the Park presentation at Centennial Park. Whether you’re a fan of Shakespeare or not, this production (cleverly set in Music City itself) offers something for everyone. Continuing through Sept. 15, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is fun, family-friendly entertainment. In addition to the dazzling costume and professional acting performances, food vendors will be on hand—just like in the Bard’s old Globe Theatre, and a different musical act will warm up the crowd for each show.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is by far one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. There is something about this tale of fairies, fun, royalty, romance, magic, misunderstandings and enchanted forests that appeals to audiences, and makes it a delight to perform. Chances are you have seen it or are familiar with the story of Puck and the other fairies as they work their magic on several couples in love and a group of local workers who have wandered into their enchanted forest.
Director Denice Hicks has set this Festival production in ‘here-and-now’ Nashville. She says it’s a love letter to Nashville, pulling from east and west Nashville as well as the many visitors who come through town every year for a taste of Music City.
“Chances are you’ve heard rumors of fairy sightings in Centennial Park, but so we won’t go in to all the details,” said one mischievous Midsummer sprite. “Though it baffles us as to why you wouldn’t want to risk a fairy eating your dinner in the park.”
If you’re (still) debating with yourself about coming out to the park, here are five reasons why you should spend an enchanted Midsummer evening with the Nashville Shakespeare Festival in the words of their own actors (just a few fairies, Mechanicals and Athenians):
• “Come dance with the fairies, swoon with the lovers, and play with the mechanicals. Share the dream,” said Andrew Gumm who plays fairy ‘Robin Goodfellow,’ a.k.a. Puck.
• “Attend and Robin Goodfellow will ‘puck your life!” said Apolonia Davalos, who plays fairy queen, Titania. “More then a little mischievous, Puck is the one who introduces us to the fairies, wrecks havoc on the lovers and places the donkey head on Bottom. It’s hard to imagine that you won’t leave the bandshell without a piece of him in your heart. I also can’t imagine what other sort of mischief he’ll get into while you’re in his world. Enter at your own risk.”
• “Fall in love with Shakespeare’s love stories in an enchanted park under the stars,” said Bonnie Keen who plays Peter ‘Petie’ Quince. “Of course, one can also experience Petie Quince’s most brilliant production as an added bonus…I’m just saying.”
• “Come watch a steeple chase inspired girl fight!” said Lauren Ballard who plays Athenian lover Hermia. “The Athenians are typically a pretty classy bunch, but sometimes Puck gets up to a little mischief and words are exchanged, punches are thrown, and women in sundresses show off their best Karate Kid moves. And someone always has a phone handy to capture all the excitement.”
• “You may or may not see some fairies twerking it out,” said Austin Hunt who plays Kudzu. “Our fairies want nothing more than to eat your dinner, take selfies with your iPhone and do Apolonia’s and Oberon’s bidding. They also occasionally like to dance. Any similarities to Miley Cyrus are avoided at all costs.”
• “Where else can you see drums, dogs, dew drops and donkeys all in one place?” asked Craige Hoover who plays the dim-witted Bottom, “apart from possibly the State Fair.”
• “The show is full of sight gags poking (gentle) fun at contemporary culture–from smartphones to sleep masks, from Capri Suns to fluffy pink poodles,” said Emily Grace Eytchison, Athenian lover Helena (understudy). “This Midsummer Night’s Dream capitalizes on its update to Nashville 2013 with an inventive and hilarious look at the ‘stuff’ we surround ourselves with.”
The Nashville Shakespeare Festival (which now also stages an annual winter show) is a professional, Equity theatre company; however, they continue their tradition of including young non-union apprentice actors in their productions. For their 25th anniversary performance, the fully staged and costumed Nashville Shakespeare Festival features 12 professional actors and 10 apprentice actors.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will run through September 15 at Centennial Park in Nashville. Admittance is free, but a small donation of $5-10 is encouraged. Bring your own food for a picnic, or buy from the vendors on site. For more information, visit, www.nashvilleshakes.org or call 862-8400.