WHAT: Local theater group Shakespeare from the Heart presents the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with the performance beginning indoors and concluding outdoors.
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: The Summit, the former Taylor University-Fort Wayne campus on West Rudisill Boulevard
COST: Free, but goodwill donations will be accepted. Proceeds will be given to the Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinic.
NOTE: Because the play will start indoors and then move outdoors, audience members are asked to bring their own seating.
While actors may be used to costume or set changes during a performance, the cast in local theater group Shakespeare from the Heart’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” also must prepare for something else — a location change.
Act 1 will take place indoors at The Summit campus, 1025 W. Rudisill Blvd., and the audience will then move to a wooded area outside for Acts 2, 3 and 4, Director Alicia Drier said.
“The play gives us a range of staging options to play with,” Drier said.
“We traditionally have done just outdoor performances,” she explained. “‘Romeo and Juliet’ last year was done outdoors, and we had to cancel some shows because of weather. We didn’t want to do that again. The indoor factor does give you some safety net, but, then again, with this play it helps to see the transition, to see the wilderness coming to life. For that reason, I wanted to be able to stage it both inside and outside, and Summit let us have that opportunity.”
Audiences can catch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at The Summit, the former Taylor University-Fort Wayne campus.
The play, which centers on woodland fairies who meddle in the love lives of two Athenian couples, is one of Shakespeare’s more popular comedies, Drier said.
“Most people’s first exposure to Shakespeare is when they read ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in school, but ‘Midsummer’ is fairly well known, too,” she said. “If I had my way with the world, this would be the first exposure everyone had to Shakespeare. I’m an English teacher, so I have a soft spot for it. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is personally my favorite show.”
Shakespeare from the Heart was founded in 1999 by a group of Fort Wayne volunteers who wanted to bring Shakespeare to life and make it accessible to general audiences while also contributing to a good cause. To this end, the actors select a charity every year, and goodwill donation proceeds go to that charity.
“That’s what makes this distinctive,” said Teresa Bower, who plays the role of Titania in “Midsummer.” “All the profits go toward the selected charity of the year (this year, Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinic). It makes it not only a hobby, but a mission, too.”
For Bower, this year’s production also is a family affair: Her husband, Larry, and son, Andrew, are both in the cast, playing Oberon and Puck, respectively.
“It’s a hobby we all share,” Teresa Bower said. Her husband, Larry, chimes in: “Sometimes, it’s the only time we get to see each other!”
“You don’t get many opportunities to do things like this as a family,” he said, “ so if you do have the opportunity, take it! There’s not many opportunities to act outdoors in iambic pentameter!”
Other members of the cast have made Shakespeare a family affair, too. Peter Meyer, who plays Peter Quince, is the father of Caleb Meyer, who plays Demitrius, and Caroline Meyer, who plays one of the fairies.
Being in the play also has made Shakespeare more accessible for some cast members.
“The first time I acted Shakespeare was last summer, and it’s so different from reading it out in school,” said Carolynn Stouder, who plays Hermia. “Acting is like living the words; school is just reading them.”
“You get way more depth and understanding,” said Catherine Herber, who plays Helena. “You have to prepare and go in-depth. I read ‘Gone with the Wind’ in preparation for my character, and talked with one of my professors who’s been helping me with acting.”
Director Drier finds it refreshing that she has actors from a wide range of ages in the play.
“With something like ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ like we did last year, the cast age range is pretty young,” she said. “But with ‘Midsummer,’ you can have middle-aged fairies! There’s a diversity of ages, so it’s been really fun to put it together.”