London has its Globe, Akron has Ohio Shakespeare Festival
Back in the days of yore (whatever that means), there were very few enclosed theaters per say. Even the Globe Theater with its surrounding enclosed balconies had an open to the weather area. It was here that “the groundlings” who could not afford a seat in the galleries stood to watch the plays of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
Then theater got sophisticated and moved inside to the stuffy environment that we have all grown to love. Luckily the thrill of totally outdoor performances has not died.
During the summer months, Ohio Shakespeare Festival engages in a number of evening performances on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron (near the lagoon). Here you can see Shakespeare as it was first meant to be presented.
The evening actually begins with the “Green Show” that starts ½ hour ahead of the curtain. It is made up of various ribald songs and skits to get you in the mood for what is to come. The current featured performance is Shakespeare’s convoluted comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.
The show consists of three interwoven story lines as well as a play within a play. Yet even with the traditional use of “middle English” it is not only easy to follow but the comedy rings loud and clear especially in the hands of this skillful cast.
In ancient Athens, Hermia (eMjay Ross) is in love with Lysander (Peter Ruiz) but is being forced by her father, Egeus (Evan Wilhelms) to marry Demetrius (Brandon Sapp) with whom Helena (Natalie Steen), Hermia’s best friend, is fiercely in love with and who used to be with Demetrius until they broke up.
Upon seeing the courting situation, Egeus reminds Duke Theseus (Brian Pedaci) of an ancient Athenian law stating that it is the father who must choose the suitor or the daughter will face death. Being the diplomat Theseus proposes another solution that Hermia could be sent to a convent to live a life of chastity in service of the goddess Diana.
Meanwhile in a forest glade, the local theater group of Peter Quince (Rachel Fichter), Nick Bottom (Ryan Zarecki), Francis Flute (James Alexander Rankin), Robin Starveling (Mark Stoffer), Tom Snout (Geoffrey Darling) and Snug (Dimitri Georgiades) gather to distribute the various parts for their upcoming performance at Duke Theseus and his bride. As the parts are distributed, Nick Bottom insists on taking over most of the characters much to the dismay of the other actors. He is convinced instead to simply to play the lead of Pyramus.
Enter Oberon (Derreck Winger), king of the faeries and his queen, Titania (Holly Humes)who are currently estranged due to Titania’s refusal to give her Indian changeling to Oberon. As an act of revenge, Oberon gives Robin “Puck” Goodfellow (Scott McKenna Campbell) a magical juice from the flower “love-in-idleness” which when applied to a sleeping person has them fall in love with whomever they first catch sight of upon awakening. Oberon’s instructions to Puck is to administer the spell on the sleeping Titania.
Meanwhile, Hermia and Lysander have run away with Helena and Demetrius in hot pursuit with Demetrius trying to rid himself of Helena. As Oberon sees the four mortals he orders Puck to administer the juice to Lysander and Demetrius and Lysander. Upon being awoke by Helena they fall in love with her.
Still meanwhile, Puck finds the sleeping Titania and administers the same magical potion. Upon awaking she falls for Nick Bottom whose head has been changed into that of a donkey.
This is by far one of the most complex plays that Shakespeare had ever written but in the hands of Ohio Shakespeare Festival it is an evening of pure magic. The costuming by Marty LaConte (Faeries) and Kelsey Tomlinson (Mortals) is exquisite.
Other players worth mentioning are: Karen L. Wood (Faerie Musician), Hanna Storch (Moth), John Peters (Philostrate), Brian Pedaci (Theseus), Chrissy Margevicius (Faerie Musician), Nathan Hoyle (Musterseed) and DeLee Cooper (Hippolytu, Peaseblossom.
Members of the staff include: Buddy Taylor (Lighting Design and Head of Design), John Peters (House Manager), Michelle Elyse-Levinson (Stage Manager), Julia Fisher (Intimacy Director), Jim Flippin (Asstistant Stage Manager), Ashley Dyer (Stage Crew), Nancy Cates (Artistic Director), Tess Burgler (Director and Managing Director) and Terry Berger (Artistic Director).
Come experience Shakespeare as it was meant to be seen (in the open air complete with bugs, bats and frogs). This production is a great way to introduce first time attendees of the Bard’s plays. Once they have experienced this live they will find themselves coming back over and over again.
The Ohio Shakespeare’s Festival production of Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through August 15, 2021 at Stan Hywet Hall’s Lagoon area located at 714 North Portage Path Road, Akron, Ohio. For information and tickets go to https://www.ohioshakespearefestival.com/midsummer or call (330) 574-2537.