On a perfect summer evening my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed the opening night of Shakespeare in the Park at Schreiber Park with the Midsommer Flight production of William Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. It was a magical night. Leaving the performance, we looked at one another and asked, “What took us so long?”
As suggested, we arrived at the park 30 minutes before the performance began and listened to the music while we made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed our picnic. There was a friendly upbeat atmosphere as people anticipated the performance. There was even an elegant table filled with lots of tempting foods that one family created.
My own attention to Shakespeare was heightened because I recently read Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates in which the lives of hardened criminals were changes by the prisoner’s involvement in preparing to present a Shakespeare play and analyzing the emotions and actions of the characters as the play progressed.
And then it came to my attention that the language Shakespeare essentially created for his plays changed the English language. An amazing list of words can be found here
Midsommer Flight is also attempting to use Shakespeare to enrich and expand Chicagoans experience with Shakespeare. They certainly accomplished that for my husband and me. We could not remember a Shakespeare production that we found more enjoyable including outdoor productions in Cardiff, Wales, Livermore, CA and even formal productions at the Stratford Festival in Canada.
Midsommer Flight’s Much Ado About Nothing features a cast of 20 and tells a tale of love winning out despite any obstacles. One of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, Much Ado takes the audience to an Italian villa, where two pairs of lovers, Beatrice and Benedick, and Claudio and Hero, navigate through deceptions ranging from sinister to hilarious on their journey toward happily ever after. .
The large cast kept the action moving and with no raised stage, the actors essentially surrounded the audience and involved us in the action. It was fascinating to see the way the performance space became defined. The actors spoke each and every word clearly and audibly. It was a delightful performance, accessible and involving. The costuming was perfect and the actions, sword fight, dancing, singing and movements into the performance space and away held the audience’s attention including the children who attended. All of the actors were convincing in their roles and the language seemed to flow into the action. (This play is unusual in that it is written in prose rather than poetry.) However, Ashlee Edgemon as Beatrice was irresistible. I have been telling all my friends, so I should also tell my readers to “Get thee to a park. Make haste!”
The individuals whose work resulted in this amazing production are as follows. The play is directed by Midsommer Flight’s Producing Artistic Director, Beth Wolf. The production team includes Dylan S. Roberts (Assistant Director), Beth Laske-Miller (Costume Designer), and David Yondorf (Violence Designer). The ensemble cast features Martel Manning (Benedick), Ashlee Edgemon (Beatrice), Adam Habben (Claudio), Vivian Knouse (Hero), Scott Olson (Leonato), Chris Smith (Don Pedro), Kanome Jones (Ursula), Jared Dennis (Dogberry), and supporting cast members Travis Cook, Meredith Ernst, Liam Fitzgerald, Glenn Garrabrant, Meg Harkins, Christina Renee Jones, Jason Markoff, J. Preddie Predmore, Elizabeth Rentro, Frank Sawa, and Sheila Willis.
Much Ado About Nothing runs July 19 through August 24, Saturdays at 6 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. July 19 – 20 and 26 – 27 performances are at Schreiber Park, 1552 W. Schreiber Avenue, in the field at the corner of Bosworth Avenue and Schreiber Avenue. August 2 – 3 and 9 – 10 performances are at Gross Park, 2708 W. Lawrence Avenue, at the north end of the park along Gunnison Street. August 16 – 17 and 23 – 24 performances are at Touhy Park, 7348 N. Paulina Street, in the southeast grove along Paulina Street. All performances will be presented free of charge (donations gratefully accepted). In addition, live music will be presented prior to each performance. Audiences are encouraged to come early and bring a picnic to enjoy this free programming. For more information go to the Midsommer Flight website
Midsommer Flight is a Chicago theatre collective dedicated to producing outdoor performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Our goal is to share our passion for Shakespeare and theatre with our community. Shakespeare is cool. The plays are beautiful and exciting, full of love, lust, sorrow, revenge, magic and joy. Performing these amazing works under the open sky only heightens the emotion and the sense of adventure shared by the actors and audiences during a performance. We envision local residents, families, Shakespeare lovers, and those new to Shakespeare’s work all to come out for a picnic and to enjoy a free performance in the fresh air of a Chicago summer. Creating and sharing this experience sounds like a wonderful way to spend our summer. We hope you will agree and come join us in the park!
Photos: B. Keer
More Shakespeare in the park can be found at the Chicago Shakes website