365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

262. Shakespeare out of doors

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I came across this interesting article about what it is like to perform Shakespeare outside. I have never actually been in a Shakespeare play outside as an actor (I worked on A Midsummer Night’s Dream last summer with Richmond Shakespeare at the summer festival, but backstage), but I have performed in several musicals outside at Dogwood Dell. Let me tell you one thing – when it comes to performing in the Virginia humidity, with the mosquitoes buzzing backstage and everyone’s costumes dripping with sweat and the constant threat of a Richmond thunderstorm (scary!), I thought that there could be nothing harder to pull off than a Sondheim musical.

I was wrong.

I watched our five-actor troupe pant, sweat, wheeze, choke, and occasionally pour water over their heads while putting on an absolutely marvelous production of Midsummer. Not an easy play to do in any conditions, the actors found great ways to make the elements work in their favor. Sometimes it was risky – the other backstage minion, Emily, and I were often found toweling off the stage and putting down tarps before the first act began – but oftentimes, it was beautiful.

Of course, the setting helps. Agecroft Hall is a wonderful place to see a Shakespearean production. It is a 15th-century Tudor estate, brought over from jolly old England in the 1920’s. The grounds are expansive and include a tranquil English garden to roam and explore. The audience members during Midsummer could be heard remarking how the setting of Agecroft added so much to the setting of the play!

And that is part of the joy of working outside. Sure, it is difficult, especially when the heat reaches near-dangerous temperatures, and everything from weather to ambient sound to neighborhood cats can behave unpredictably. But there is something about being so, shall we say, “in the element” that can bring something refreshing, new, and even magical to performing Shakespeare.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

June 20, 2010 at 2:54 PM

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