Shakespeare possesses the power of subordinating nature for the purposes of expression, beyond all poets. His imperial muse tosses the creation like a bauble from hand to hand, and uses it to embody any caprice of thought that is uppermost in his mind. The remotest spaces of nature are visited, and the farthest sundered things are brought together, by subtle spiritual connection. We are made aware that magnitude of material things is relative, and all objects shrink and expand to serve the passion of the poet.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(Treasury of Thought: Forming an Encyclopædia of Quotation from Ancient & Modern Authors)
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.
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…
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)