in the park

Wilcox Park ~ 7.27.11 ~ Westerly, Rhode Island
Wilcox Park ~ 7.27.11 ~ Westerly, Rhode Island

Twenty years ago, in July of 1991, The Colonial Theater of  Westerly, Rhode Island, began presenting its annual Shakespeare-in-the-Park with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My mother had died only a few weeks earlier, and after seeing an article in the newspaper about the free performances, Tim & I decided we should go. We loved every minute of it, cuddled under the stars in our beach chairs on the lawn of beautiful Wilcox Park. Seeing these plays became one of the highlights of our year, a dearly loved tradition.

For the 15th season, in 2005, the theater presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream again, much to our delight! And I loved these words found in the program that year:

The mix of illusion and reality that runs through the play is also a particularly relevant theme at this time. For this is at the heart of what we do each year. With your participation, we visit people and worlds where the normal, earthbound laws of physics no longer apply. … Not only is the play filled throughout with the imagery of dreams, but Puck even addresses the audience at the play’s close with the advice that if they’ve not been pleased with what they’ve seen, they should just tell themselves that they’ve been dreaming, and will wake up with nothing lost. And what’s to say that we haven’t been dreaming while this parade of characters has performed across the stretch of our imagination?
~ Harland Meltzer, Producing Artistic Director, Colonial Theater

Over the years we’ve been to almost every play, except for the few times there was no play due to lack of funding. It’s free, but the theater counts on donations to make it each year. Besides making donations ourselves, Tim buys a coffee cup each year and as you imagine, has a large collection now.

“The Tempest” ~ summer 2011 ~ Wilcox Park, Westerly, Rhode Island

This year the play chosen was The Tempest, which was put on for the second time, the first time being in 1992. After watching the weather report we decided that Wednesday was the best night to catch it. We went early in the afternoon to stake out our spot, and then returned in the evening, found a good parking spot, walked to a restaurant for dinner and then walked back to the park for the play. Even though I had my exercise ball to sit on, perhaps all the walking and sitting in the restaurant had taken its toll because I was uncomfortable almost immediately. And Tim was not feeling well due to moving around in the heat and humidity – it’s hard on his heart. Both of us sat there miserably until the intermission, wondering if the other would mind leaving early, something we had never ever done before. When intermission came we took one look at each other and knew with very little verbal communication how things stood. We quietly gathered up our things and left…

Wilcox Park ~ 7.27.11 ~ Westerly, Rhode Island
Wilcox Park ~ 7.27.11 ~ Westerly, Rhode Island

For future reference I’m listing all of Shakespeare’s plays we’ve seen by this theater group at Wilcox Park:

1991 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
1992 – Tempest
1993 – As You Like It
1996 – Romeo & Juliet
1996 – Julius Caesar (performed by the visiting Anglian Open Air Shakespeare Company)
1997 – Twelfth Night
1998 – Othello
1999 – Taming of the Shrew
2000 – Henry IV, Part I
2001 – Hamlet
2003 – Merchant of Venice
2004 – Much Ado About Nothing
2005 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
2006 – Romeo & Juliet
2008 – As You Like It
2009 – Two Gentlemen of Verona
2011 – Tempest (until intermission)

Wilcox Park ~ 7.27.11 ~ Westerly, Rhode Island
Wilcox Park ~ 7.27.11 ~ Westerly, Rhode Island

12 thoughts on “in the park”

  1. Ahhh Barbara, actually you both stayed to the end of the play and had a marvellous time. A spell was cast over you both by Puck so that you thought you’d left early. Lord knows what you were really up to during that “missing” time.

    After all, life is but a dream ….

  2. Hi Barbara,
    What a fantastic idea to hold these wonderful plays for everyone to see without any cost. There would be a lot of people that may never be able to see a live play otherwise. It is very good of the actors as well to put in their time for this. It does look like a lovely spot as well.

    1. I’m sure that many new Shakespeare fans have been born when given a chance to see it for free. The actors are paid, though, because it runs for three weeks or so. And there are plenty of opportunities to make donations and we leave as much as we can… I only wish we were allowed to take pictures during the play!

  3. We have always enjoyed the plays here, some more than others. Not part of the series, but still at Wilcox Park, one year a professional Shakespeare troop from England presented Julius Caesar, with minimal set decorations, and pure white robes, that accented the bright red blood during the critical scene where Brutus does his dirty deed. While well done, I felt lacking for the local element that the local presentations always seem to add. It is good to see some of the actors who return every year or so, and the different parts they play. The actress that played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet performed as if she was 15 years old, with a teenage girls mood swings, ideals and dreams, and her actions with the words fit so well together one wonders how older actresses moved away from that age. Having it be understood that some scholars do in fact believe that Juliet was written for that young of a character.

    The stage, as seen in the photo above, is functional without being too high tech or expensive, and they do have a sound system and scaffolding on either side of the stage with lights.

    The park is wonderful, as one would never guess plays were held there, no amphitheater or permanent stage is there, and during the events the grass feels so cool on the feet. People arrive early, food, wine, and chairs in hand. The food can be as light as some crackers or a granola bar, and as heavy as perogies served from a crock pot. The crowd is always respectful, mostly picking up their own trash when they leave, and no one has a boom box playing, just nice soft conversations while waiting for the play to start. All in all an excellent time for relaxing; enjoying some very old words that still command attention, and feeling the sorrow or laughter that these plays bring out in us.

    1. I believe it is an oak, Cait. I didn’t have my glasses on, but I got a glimpse of a few of the leaves on a branch reaching over the walkway and they did look like oak leaves, but I’m not sure which kind of oak. Apparently there are about 400 species of oak trees and shrubs! The tree did have a magical energy, even from a distance – I was tempted to climb over the fence and sit by the trunk for a while…

  4. I like Sybil’s comment/explanation. 🙂

    A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favorites, especially done outdoors. I’ve seen it several times, once in a park in London where it seemed almost perfect.

    1. Oh Robin, that must have been amazing to see “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a park in London! I think having the characters using the trees as part of the scenery gives that particular play a special enchantment. Once, during “Romeo & Juliet”, a shooting star arced over the stage – what a thrilling moment!

      Sybil’s comment was so sweet – it’s nice she knew just what Puck was up to!

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