As many of us approach the midpoint of summer vacation, we feel like we’ve run out of things to do. How many days in a row can we honestly spend lounging by the pool? Wait. Forget I asked that. But, seriously, I’ve found a solution to the summer monotony that not only gets you outside but also has some cultural arts appeal.
Last Saturday, I visited Shakespeare in Central Park. I’ll admit, I’m not the most well-rounded Shakespeare aficionado. I mean, “Shakespeare in Love” is one of my favorite movies, but less for the Shakespearean content and more for Joseph Fiennes’ brooding good looks.
I was certainly nervous that I wouldn’t be able to follow the festival’s Shakespearean lingo, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The festival offered the perfect show for me, “The Complete Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged).” The show featured a cast of three goofy guys who had about the same amount of Shakespearean knowledge as I do. Using silly costumes, modern references and even a Snooki wig, the trio explained each work of William Shakespeare – the comedies, tragedies, sonnets and even the “bad” plays – through understandable and riotously funny short scenes.
But the play itself isn’t what impressed me most. Not only is the festival located in one of the most beautiful parts of town – Old Louisville – but the breathtaking theater is set in the middle of Louisville’s Central Park.
The set blew me away. Honestly, I didn’t know that theater technology of that caliber could stand alone in the outdoors. The set featured lights, scaffolding, a huge painted backdrop and even a cherry picker crane. I wonder what kind of contraptions lie backstage to keep everything together, and I can’t imagine what they do when it rains.
Luckily the weather held up Saturday night so that a diverse group of families, adult couples, singles and even groups of teenagers could attend the free production. Yes, you read that correctly. The production is totally free!
Before the show, Kentucky Shakespeare’s Artistic Director Brantley Dunaway came out to address the crowd. After cracking a few jokes and informing us that the show was, in fact, rated PG-13, he explained that the organization – the largest arts education provider in the state – is reliant on support from sponsors such as Brown-Forman but also operates on a significant amount of individual donations.
During intermission, volunteers went through the crowd asking for donations. Audience members weren’t hesitant to contribute after a hilarious and impressive first act.
And though the entertainment was stellar, the ambience made the experience even more special. Central Park felt like one big picnic. Though there were enough benches to seat at least 1,000 audience members, attendees brought blankets and lawn chairs to sit comfortably. Stands selling concessions and alcoholic beverages gave the setting an even more comfortable feel.
I do suggest stealing a seat closer to the front, however, because the comfortable audience can get a little talkative in the back.
Also, pack some insect repellent. Because the show was so entertaining, I didn’t realize until afterward that I had been eaten alive.
But don’t fret about the heat. By the time the show starts at 8:30 p.m., the sun is beginning to set and the air is cooling down. In fact, I even had to break out my cardigan. I was, however, wearing a sundress and wish I’d brought a comfy cushion to sit on. Those benches left some nice horizontal lines on the back of my legs. Good thing it was dark by the time I left.
But, honestly, I was a little overdressed. The event is super casual: Wear what you want, bring who you want and eat and drink what you want.
The only thing you should take seriously at Shakespeare in Central Park is your enjoyment and appreciation of the show. Kentucky Shakespeare has pulled off a spectacular festival thus far. Support the organization by getting out and seeing one of this summer’s shows.
As the Kentucky Shakespeare cast and crew say, “May the Bard be with you.”
For more information, visit www.kyshakespeare.com.
Central Park, 1340 S. Fourth St.
“The Complete Works of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)” runs through Sunday, June 26. “As You Like It” will begin June 28 and run through July 10. “Two Gentlemen of Verona” will run July 14 through 17.
Sharing the Stage
This year, Kentucky Shakespeare is sharing the stage for the first time with three other arts organizations: University of Louisville, University of Kentucky and the Louisville Youth Choir.
Now on its 51st year, Shakespeare in Central Park is the oldest free Shakespeare festival in the U.S.
Kentucky Shakespeare is the official Shakespeare Theatre of the Commonwealth.
Since 1990, Kentucky Shakespeare has visited all 120 counties in Kentucky and even areas in Indiana, West Virginia, Ohio and South Carolina.
In February 2011, Tony Award winning actor Liev Schreiber was the featured guest at “Sonnets & Soliloquies,” a Kentucky Shakespeare fundraiser.
Category: Out & About