I love theatrical performances, but those costs can really eat into your budget, whether you’re on vacation or not. Over the weekend we took time out to grab a blanket and some beverages and take the dog to the park to catch some Shakespeare. She loves to run around before and during intermission and then while the performance is going on, she watches the action or the people in the audience. I love Shakespeare in the Park, because it combines my love for the Bard with my husband’s love of being outside and spending little to no money. I enjoy those things, too, but if we could get by on spending nothing, he would be thrilled.
The show was a little different, and not just because it was the most people I’d ever seen at a park to watch old English being performed. First of all, the play was not rehearsed. The company performed it as they would have when it was “first run” and had their own parts on scrolls – which included a little bit of the line before and after theirs so they could keep pace – and, to make it even more interesting, they had a referee off-sides to help actors if they got off track, but also to throw the actors off track to make the play as funny and interactive as possible. Now, this is the first time I have ever witnessed this during a show at a park and I enjoyed it very much.
Throughout the performance, the actors would wander through the audience, plucking picnic foods from offered containers and then would have to do a little improv when prompted. Being that the play was As You Like It and it takes place 90% in the Forest of Arden, eating “found” food made quite a bit of sense. An actor rushing to answer an onlooker’s cell phone, not so much. Still, it made for a unique evening out. Over the course of the play, the ref called for the actors to engage in a high-five race when a plane flew overhead and they couldn’t be heard, to entertain a baby in the front row that was getting antsy and to pretend to do yard work when a lawnmower started in the background. He also sent out an audience request to bring him a Sno-Cone from a nearby vendor, which was so funny that many were purchased and all the actors then were trying to act while incorporating either a Sno-Cone or cotton candy into the scene.
So, why am I recounting my tales to summer activities? Because Shakespeare in the Park is a national (and possibly international?) phenomenon and summer is the time to take advantage of your local theater company’s free performances. It’s a cheap way to get out and enjoy some culture – though Shakespearean songs done to the tune of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine probably counts as more than some – and introduce your children to the Bard. If they get a bit fidgety, it’s okay, because you’re in a park! Go run off that excess energy during intermission or, if they really aren’t into it, you can leave without lamenting the $20+ you paid for each ticket.
If you’re off vacationing and looking for something to do that won’t break your budget, so you can either save money or splurge on that fancy schmancy restaurant, jump on Google to find nearby performances. Most shows happen on Saturdays and Sundays, but there can be some special shows on other days of the week. You never have to dress up, you can bring a picnic if you want, get comfortable and show up any time before start time to get a spot on the lawn. Don’t forget to bring a couple of bucks for concessions (if there are any) or to donate for a particularly good performance.
Have you ever enjoyed your local Shakespeare in the Park?