This year’s Plaza Theatre Co.’s Shakespeare in the Park production choice proved a no-brainer, Plaza Artistic Director JaceSon Barrus said.
“For the past several years we’ve enjoyed staging comedies and it seemed like the right time to do Shakespeare’s most well known and most accessible comedy,” Barrus said.
Shakespeare in the Park, now in its fourth year, presents “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Winston Patrick McGregor Park, 1628 W. Henderson St.
Tickets cost $10 for adults in advance or $15 at the gate and $5 for children or students either way. To purchase advance tickets call 817-202-0600 or visit cleburneshakes.org.
Parking is free and the park opens at 6:30 p.m. each night.
Food trucks, Marble Slab Creamery and other vendors will be on hand.
The mostly forest set play, which Shakespeare penned about 1595, involves the travails of four young lovers against the backdrop of the impending marriage between Theseus, duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, former queen of the Amazons all of which is compounded and confounded by the comedic meddling of woodland sprites and faeries.
“‘Midsummer’ fits so well in the confines of McGregor Park and its surroundings given that much of the play takes place in a forest,” Barrus said. “For people who haven’t seen this particular play before one of the great concepts is that Puck, a faerie, is a bit of a scamp who plays tricks on the lovers. Through a series of potions she pours in the ears of these lovers she confuses them about who they love and just kind of has fun with them.
“Another great scene is the wedding of [Theseus and Hippolyta] where a play is performed and the play is actually Shakespeare making fun of theater. He actually mocks ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with this play within a play and makes fun of actors. He finds actors funny and so he has this whole sequence of events where actors go out there and they make a big deal out of acting and Shakespeare is basically teasing about the idea of being an actor.”
Plaza held their first production of Shakespeare in the Park at Buddy Stewart Park but switched to McGregor Park in their second year after Buddy Stewart flooded.
“It’s been a good fit,” Barrus said. “McGregor I think is more accessible and visible and it’s a wonderful park and setting for a play.”
The chance to take a show outdoors once a year brings a welcome change of pace both for Plaza actors and theatergoers, Barrus said.
“We offer live theater at our theater every weekend of the year and love doing that,” Barrus said. “But, by staging Shakespeare once a year, we get the unique experience to perform while the audience sits under the stars. You can bring your blanket, lawn chair and a cooler with whatever beverage you like and snacks and just kick back and enjoy the show.”
Speaking of the aforementioned star crossed lovers, planning is already under way for next year’s Shakespeare production, Barrus said.
“Yes, being that that will be our fifth year of Shakespeare in the Park we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion of that anniversary so we’re already planning for ‘Romeo and Juliet,’” Barrus said.
Plaza works in partnership with the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce to stage the annual Shakespeare productions.
“We’ve done that all four years and it’s because of the chamber that we’re able to do these,” Barrus said. “Because we work through them with the city to be able to use the park. And for them it’s one of several of their annual events such as the dragon boat races and Cinco de Mayo on their calendar.”
Cleburne Chamber President Cathy Marchel said the annual Shakespeare productions always provide a night of great theater and community fellowship within one of Cleburne’s most picturesque locales.
“What more could you want than to sit out on the lawn of our beautiful McGregor Park with food and drinks watching our great local actors perform Shakespeare?” Marchel said.
Bates etc. Travel, as they have in each of the previous years, once again serves as this year’s title sponsor.
“We at Bates Travel are big supporters of the arts in Cleburne,” Bates owner June Bates said. “On top of that, Shakespeare in the Park has become such a great yearly event and it’s always a ton of fun. We go every year with a big group and wouldn’t miss it and this weekend’s production is no exception.”
Much ado abounds at Plaza
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is but one Plaza-related activities scheduled this weekend.
“No,” Barrus said. “We have 12 performances of five different productions going on this weekend. Two performances of Shakespeare then here at Plaza at Dudley Hall have ‘West Side Story,’ which is still playing through June 23. At Plaza Main Street we have FamJams at 7:30 p.m. Friday and ImPLAZAbles at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Then we open our junior show, ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ at 10 a.m. Saturday.”
FamJams, now in its second week, runs each Friday through the end of July.
“Sold out last week so had a great opening with that,” Barrus said. “It’s kind of our Branson style family concert. In other words, if you go to Branson you’ll see families put on concerts. They’ll do music, sing together but also do comedy skits. It’s basically a variety show.”
Dubbed “Red, White & Phillips,” the current FamJams production showcases the talents of Fort Worth acting family the Phillips.
“We will continue FamJams,” Barrus said. “It’s just that it will be a different family after July.
ImPLAZAbles, an improv comedy troop will continue to run each Saturday.
“Winnie the Pooh” marks the stage debut of Plaza’s recently launched Harmony Connection’s program, which offers classes for special needs students.
“All the roles will be filled by students with special needs who will be shadowed by more experienced students so each role is played by two different performers,” Barrus said.
Once “West Side Story” moves on, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” move in.
“That’s a great little musical that will be a lot of fun,” Barrus said. “It’s a jukebox musical where they sing pop hits from the ’50s and ’60s.”
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