Posted by: mdmusingsie | August 16, 2014

Shakespeare in the Park

Recently I went to watch a free production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing put on by Fortune Fool Productions. Shakespeare in the park has long been one of my favorite outings, going back many (many) years to my days in California. A fan of the bard since grammar school days, I went on a theatre tour a (long) ways back that spent 10 days in Stratford-on-Avon and 10 days in London studying Shakespeare and meeting members of the cast of the Royal Shakespeare Company (including a then up and coming actor named Patrick Stewart). In addition, I moved to Ashland Oregon to finish my bachelor’s degree – home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where I not only attended over several decades but volunteered whilst in college.

I’m a big fan of the bard’s work; however, I do tend to avoid the plays which are done in modern dress. What started as a mild dislike has grown into a full blown aversion – I even stopped attending plays at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival after 20-plus years because they were becoming too modern and sensationalized. If I want West Side Story, I won’t be buying tickets to Romeo and Juliet. They have very strong similarities in their story lines, but the reason I go to see Shakespearean plays has more to do with the beauty of the language than the tale.

If I were to approach a stranger, let alone a friend on the street and say, “Hail, kind sir/madam. How dost thou this fine day?” I’d probably be stared at as if I’d grown another head. That’s what Shakespeare in modern dress does for me. The words clash so loudly with the garments that all I hear is noise rather than the melodious tones of the language.

I do understand the desire to attract a wider audience may mean putting some modern twists on the Elizabethan costumes, but I still believe it can be done without putting characters in jeans and a t-shirt or swapping swords for guns – especially when the word sword is still spoken while holding a pistol (and printing the word sword on the side of a gun as they did in the 1996 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio does not make it all right).

So what did I think of this Shakespeare in the park production? They did a very fine job. The costumes were late 18th century (think Jane Austen) and despite the large area they were occupying, the actors did well projecting their voices so that even those of us on the side hill could hear at least 20+ yards back. This was no mean feat as it was quite a windy day. Over a hundred people were in attendance with dozens more coming and going throughout the production.

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As this was my third stop of the day, the ground was a bit damp after the recent rains, and I hadn’t brought anything proper to sit on (not knowing whether I would like it enough to stay), I didn’t watch the entire production. I did hang around for at least half the production. Next time I’ll come better prepared. Walking for hours is no problem, but for some reason standing for hours does not agree with my body, so I did leave just after Hero fainted, being falsely accused of an indiscretion on the night before her wedding and then shunned by her father.

There’s a lovely rose garden in Iveagh Gardens along with a small maze which a number of children found quite entertaining. The garden is probably spectacular when in full bloom and I seem to have caught it at intermission, so to speak. A number of blossoms were nearing end of life yet there were still plenty of rose buds waiting their turn to shine. Hopefully the recent downturn in weather is short lived so the little darlings have their moment in the sun. Of course it was like trying to get a toddler to sit still as I attempted to photograph them in between wind gusts.

Iveagh_rosebuds1_sm Iveagh_rosebuds2_sm Iveagh_rosebuds3_sm


  1. I am in full agreement on the Shakespeare in modern clothing…I just don’t love it…it just doesn’t speak to me…and I too have tried at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival…The beauty of the language goes so perfectly with the beauty of velvet and brocade:-)

  2. Thanks, Susan! It’s good to know I’m not alone

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