Music in the Park and a Dream on the Square

I was pleasantly surprised to find out, on a recent trip to the farmer’s market downtown, that one of the little theatres was going to be putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s been fun to insert Shakespeare plays into our history education, but the result has been hit or miss. The 1953 movie version of Julius Caesar was perfect when we were studying the fall of the Roman Republic: it was grand, it was exciting, and it had lots and lots of interesting history. But Anthony and Cleopatra, which we could only get as a filmed stage production, was dreadful; I though Macbeth would be great for the medieval times, but Neil greatly preferred the written play over the dry film version; and we both bailed on the over-rated film version of The Taming of the Shrew, which anyway, Neil had already watched in fourth grade.

A live stage performance is really the way the play should be seen, and tickets are usually only $15 or $20 a seat at local theatres. I get a lot more pleasure seeing our local theatre geeks, who are sociable and talented, and whom I might even cross paths with locally, than paying $60 a ticket to see a B-list celebrity who runs off to sulk about being in San Jose as soon as the show ends. But I digress.

I’d been waffling on and off about getting tickets, until yesterday afternoon, when I decided to just drop in on the opening show with Neil.

We went downtown, where Peter planned to take Kelly off for another adventure, and since the play wasn’t scheduled to begin until 8, we all went to the park near Peter’s office to see the band. Peter thought it was a Journey cover band, but it turned out he’d misread the schedule. The scheduled band was the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars, but they hadn’t started yet. Instead, there was a crowd grooving to another band on stage. I never found out who they were, but they were raggae-esque in a foreign language.

all stars opener

Their music was catching, even if I didn’t understand the lyrics, and Kelly and I danced along with the happy hippies, including this hippie wizard:

hippie wizard

Peter bought some pizza at a pizza stand in the park, and then we moseyed over to the theatre over in nearby San Pedro Square (where there are free movies on Wednesdays, and the farmer’s market on Fridays). I had no trouble getting tickets, and even better, the tickets were free. Or actually, it was pay what you can day, which meant give the theatre a donation.

It turned out the theatre was in a former comedy club, where Peter and I had seen shows many years ago. It was set up slightly differently (better) for a theatre production, and the drinks and snacks at the bar were a lot cheaper. I took a look at our fellow theatre goers and was delighted to see one Nick Bottom was going to see the show as another performed in it:

nick bottom in audience

He’s all blurry because of the magic. Ok, actually, I just turned my flash off. Seriously, I love theatrical theatre fans! Sometimes I’m one of them too.

This version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was set in Mexico with Mayan mythology. I wish I could have taken pictures, because the costumes for the ushmal (Mayan fairies) were fantastic, and the production photos don’t show the costumes. The ushmals wore bodysuits with colorful patterns topped with manes and crowns of feathers, and Cobweb sported a set of Wolverine-like claws. The ushmals did native dances, and the humans Mexican folk dances, and other than that, it was true to the original script.

Neil, who I think hasn’t ever seen a full-length Shakespeare play on stage before, loved it. There was the unrecreatable spirit of being in an audience, laughing along at the jokes, and the charming little imperfections, like King Oberon’s feathered crown, which kept slipping until he finally tossed it off stage dramatically. And the rudeness of the very bad Showgirls-good production of Pyramus and Thisbee, featuring a wall with its chink in an awkward location. We laughed and laughed, and after the play we laughed some more. Neil said it was far better than the stiff and serious movie productions, and (natually) more lively and imaginative than the play just as written. So hopefully we’ll get a chance to see some more Shakespeare comedies in the area this summer.

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