The Putnam County Playhouse, here in Greencastle, just finished its two-weekend run of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. It was the first time, I understand, that Shakespeare was done by our enthusiastic summer summer theater. It was imaginatively directed by Amy Gaither Hayes, who is passionate about the idea that Shakespeare can be well-presented and well-received by what one might call “everyday” people, including many of our non-academic neighbors in this small farm/college town of ours. In this, she reminds me of the wonderful work done by Albert Cullum, which I learned about in the PBS documentary A Touch of Greatness, not only in her use of children and teenagers in the cast, but also in her Shakespeare-is-for-everyone general approach.
I saw the show three times. As the father of the 15-year-old who played Tatania, Queen of the Faries, I was invited to the dress rehearsal; I also attended opening and closing nights. Each night was different, as live theater always is, and it was wonderful to see the way performances evolved over the run of the show. There were a few over-30 players, and they did well, but it was the chlidren, the teenagers, and some the college students who let loose in a way I haven’t seen before in an “amateur” production. By closing night, the spontaneity and collective energy of the actors and the audience made the space crackle with aliveness.
It made me want to read the play and see it again. The thought of renting a DVD of a filmed version crossed my mind, but I immediately realized that anything I watch on a television screen could not come remotely close to the joyful, collective, and so very human experience of which I’d just been part.