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Location: Lincoln, Nebraska

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Share the Enchantment!

Shakespeare Plays under the Stars
Pamela S. Thompson, Lincoln Journal Star

Shakespeare in the Park has landed in Lincoln.

Inspired perhaps by the free Central Park summer performances in New York City, Flatwater Shakespeare Company's artistic director, Bob Hall, has staged A Midsummer Night's Dream under a canopy of trees and stars.

Wednesday's opening night audience of more than 150 -- equipped with bug spray, Goodrich ice cream and loose-fitting clothing -- was treated to an athletic two-plus hours of the Bard's best. The performance commanded the audience's full attention, as the dialog was as quick as the performers' sprints among the garden walks, ponds and steps.

It was a brave experiment to present this play in an outdoor downtown space. But it is also true that this production was in competition with its venue.

In Shakespeare's play, the forest outside Athens is an enchanted wonderland. The Lincoln Foundation Garden, by contrast, is an urban square bounded on two sides by tall buildings.

The performance was presented in the round, so that at any point the actors were directing their lines away from some part of the audience. Thus, one section sometimes was deprived of hearing a line by passing traffic, a building air conditioner or a stray airplane. With the seats on the same level as the stage, when an actor dropped to his or her knees, that actor was lost to all but the first row.

As is typical of a Hall-directed production, the cast was solid, led by a comedic Eric Ojeda as narcissistic and stage-mad weaver Bottom. Enjoyably energetic were Rob Burt, Peter Swanke, Maggie Austin and Petrea Whittier as the lovers thrown into a delightful confusion caused by the anarchic sprite Puck, played with gusto by the mischievous Mike Lee, as commanded by Darin Hemmer's bewitching Oberon.

This is a vehicle in which Shakespeare indulges his appreciation for the magic of the season, and the production is a robust embodiment of that pleasure. For those who can dispense with the comfort of an air-conditioned theater, this outdoor production allows us to share the enchantment.

Flatwater Shakespeare Company’s A Midsummer Night's Dream

Lincoln Community Foundation Garden, 14th and N streets

7:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, June 16-19
and Wednesday through Sunday, June 22-26

Free, suggested donation of $10; call 402-473-2897

Touring schedule

Flatwater Shakespeare will take the production to parks and other outdoor locations around Lincoln after its run in Foundation Garden. It will play at 7 p.m. and, like the LCF Garden production, will be free. Following is the tour schedule:

June 30 -- Prescott Elementary School, 1930 S. 20th St.

July 1 -- Cooper Park, Sixth and D streets

July 2 -- Bethany Park, 65th and Vine streets

July 3 -- Henry Park, 44th Street and Prescott Avenue

July 7 -- First-Plymouth Congregational Church, 20th and D streets

July 8 -- Trago Park, 22nd and U streets

July 9 -- Antelope Park (by Liberty Statue), 1300 S. 27th St.

July 10 -- Woods Park, 33rd and J streets

Photo: Mike Lee as Puck in the Flatwater Shakespeare Company production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo Credit: John Nollendorfs


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