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So I'm directing this play. Wm. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Because making a 16th century English play accessible to a 21st century American audience isn't difficult enough, I've included fourteen children and a dog in the cast.

It's a community theater show with 42 actors. My Assistant Director, myself and a harpist we've engaged are the only people who are being paid to put this on. There's an unpaid production staff, run crew, techs, publicity staff, set builders and painters, plus a house manager & ushers. If you add the Community Theater board of directors who hired & supported me in putting on this show, we have about 70 volunteers along for this wild ride.

I have a full time day job. Why do I give up eight weeks of my free time and tear out what little hair I have for nickels & dimes and three performances in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin? Why do all these volunteers do it for free? The non-profit, Fond du Lac Community Theater is over fifty years old. They own their own workshop-rehearsal facility and have a faithful bunch of season-ticket holders. They bust their butts, struggle to pay the bills and put on four or five shows a year. If they break even and enjoy a little applause, they are satisfied.

W.C. Fields said “Never work with children or animals.” As much as I respect his comic genius, I have to go against his advice. I did my first community theater show when I was 8 years old. We have fourteen kids in our show. If the FDLCT is going to be around fifty years from now, perhaps some of those kids will be involved. The "community" in "community theater" is us. Live, local theater is the people's art. It is a singing, dancing, hamming-it-up version of a locally grown, organic tomato. Disney doesn't own it. The cable/satellite/radio entertainment conglomerates can't control it. It belongs to us. For three evenings, a crowd of people will turn off the TV, put on their coats and go out to see somebody they know speak these words:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
 Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
 Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
 With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
 There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
 Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
 And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
 Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:
That is why I'm burning the candle at both ends. In return for all our labor, hopes and artistry, we hope to gain a bit of applause and enough cash to pay the theater rental.

I'll conclude with the words I wrote for the show's program:

We live in a world that makes sense, most of the time. We believe what our own eyes and hearts and minds tell us. The numbers add up. The road is plainly marked and the map can be trusted. But there is mist in low places. The trees there are old and the stones are older still. Perhaps it is only dream, perhaps not.

Will it still make sense at moonrise? Will it still matter?

   Come away, the music calls to you, luring you to the forest and the hills beyond. Your lover waits in the shadows. Will you lose yourself in the darkness and wash your face in the morning dew? Come away...

   On behalf of the actors, music-makers and technicians, I thank you for coming to see our show. As your “manager of mirth”, let me introduce you to the heroes, the clowns and the faerie-folk. They are here to tell you a very old story. Hearts will be broken. Hearts will be mended with magic and harp-strings. Hearts will swell and billow in the breeze of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A Midsummer Night's Dream opens goes up at 7:30 on February 14th, 15th & 16th at the Goodrich Little Theater, 72 W 9th St. in Fond du Lac, WI. Tickets are $17
There will be at least a couple of Kossacks in attendance. If you are in the area, bring your sweetie to see it.

The rest of you Kossacks out in the big, wide world are encouraged to support and patronise local, live entertainment. "All the world's a stage." Better get there early for a good seat.


Originally posted to ruleoflaw on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 07:29 PM PST.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, Theatricals, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You have my admiration (7+ / 0-)

    I was in most of my high school's plays when I was a kid.  They are an insane amount of work.  Good for you and your troupe!

  •  Well I Hope It's a Big Hit For You. (8+ / 0-)

    I did amateur and occasionally--paid ethnic traditional music for most of my life. Much of it was in bands of various sorts.

    Most ways it's very different from Shakespeare obviously, but one thing's the same: you put your best interpretation and your best execution out there, stir in a healthy dose of timing and sensitivity to the audience, and try to give everyone a great time balancing emotion, thoughtfulness and energy in every performance.

    I never thought of it as giving up my free time. That was something I called "job."

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 07:45:53 PM PST

  •  Triple cheers from a fellow thespian! (8+ / 0-)

    "Midsummer Night's Dream" is a wonderful play, and I'm sure your company will be marvelous!  I'm in NY, so I can't come see your work, but break a leg!  For myself, I'll be playing Essie in Eugene O'Neill's comedy, "Ah, Wilderness!" at the very same time.

    As for the children in the show, here is a marvelous description of the Top 10 Skills Children Learn from the Arts.

    Break a leg, all of you!
    Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug


    "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand." ~ Atticus Finch, "To Kill a Mockingbird"

    by SottoVoce on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 07:50:00 PM PST

  •  Thank You - N/T (6+ / 0-)

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 11:03:13 PM PST

  •  Best of Broken Legs (6+ / 0-)

    To all of you!

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle

    by Chris Reeves on Sat Feb 09, 2013 at 11:26:00 PM PST

  •  Funny you should mention live theater (4+ / 0-)

    I just got back from a production of a musical called Honk! at my granddaughter's high school. If you don't know it, it's a British musical adaptation of The Ugly Duckling. By absolutely no coincidence at all, my granddaughter was in the show. She didn't have a speaking part, but she still lit up the stage by singing and dancing and doing a bit part as a TV camera operator.

    I love watching these kids put their heart and soul into bringing characters to life. Who knows what someday we'll see one or two of them off-Broadway or in a TV show, or maybe better; and even if we don't they, like me, will be able to look back and say that doing theater was the most fun they had in high school.

    Look around your community and see if there are high schools putting on plays and make it a point to go watch. The kids will appreciate the support, and in among the diamonds in the rough who knows but what you'll meet up with an Annie who can actually hit the high notes and make you believe the sun will come out tomorrow.

    If you can't say anything nice about the GOP, please post here more often.

    by Omir the Storyteller on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 01:07:34 AM PST

  •  Is the dog (3+ / 0-)

    Angus McPup?  Pictures, please!

    I directed Midsummer once upon a time. It is a script that is as fun for the audience as it is for the cast and crew.

    "There was once a time when Wisconsin was famous for its courtesy and its tradition of good government." (Baldus v. Brennan)

    by Cady Brownell on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 04:48:07 AM PST

  •  What is darkness? (5+ / 0-)

    I try to remind students that we don't know what darkness means, and we have no mystery. In the ancient world, anything could be over the next hill -- a four headed giant or a nation of goat people -- and going over the next hill was ill advised. Going out at night was a recipe for dying, for the moon or Trivia would get you (aka Hecate).

    In the medieval world, dark meant that straying off the path was likely, and four feet off the path might mean dying of exposure. The maps were blanks: Here is one town, and there is another one down this road some distance. If you traveled the road and saw a house, it might be a giant, a fairy, a witch, a knight, or a farmer.

    Today, the maps are filled in, and it never gets dark. We have few surprises.

    Everyone is innocent of some crime.

    by The Geogre on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:22:53 AM PST

    •  My theory is (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Polly Syllabic, ruleoflaw, The Geogre

      that "lack of darkness" is exactly why Fantasy and horror movies and TV shows have become so popular.

      We need mythology in our lives.

      "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

      by ARS on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:38:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  True. . . but. . . (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The medievals and renaissance loved it, too. After all, we have Beowulf because some friar (probably) or abbot liked monster stories and collected them into the monstrarum librarum of Cotton Vitellius A xiv. :-)

        The difference seems to be that people loved stories of what might be -- an alternative that could be reached by simply dropping family life and being brave and joining the Crusade or the crew of Ralegh or the like. In a sense, it is a science fiction...sort of.

        I think each person wishes for a second chance to define him or herself as a hero. One fantasy is the end of the world (minus a few), and one is taking oneself into a strange environment (plus a few fellow travelers), and there one's native skill and strength will show how genuinely powerful and worthy the reader is (Odysseus rather than Achilles). For this reason, if no other, the stories of "some place" need "and it's around the corner." We lost the potentiality.

        We had it back, briefly, in the space age.

        Everyone is innocent of some crime.

        by The Geogre on Tue Feb 12, 2013 at 03:24:15 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Break a leg (4+ / 0-)

    Your local community theater can be a great evening's entertainment.  It can be a classic like Midsummer, or it can be something you've never heard of (and will wonder why).  In many cases you'll be surprised, even shocked, at the level of talent.  There are some amazing actors, musicians and directors out there and in most cases they do it simply for the love of it.  The true definition of amateur.  It's either the easiest work or the most difficult fun I've ever enjoyed.

    If you truly love it, it doesn't matter that you're not getting paid.  If you don't truly love it, there ain't enough money in the world to make you work that hard.

    By the way, if you contact your community theater and tell them you want to volunteer, at least 12 out of 10 will find something for you to do.

  •  Break an appendage of your choice! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is what I say to my actors before a show ..

    I have been in community theater here in ABQ since 2009.  It has been the most rewarding work of my life. I have met the most talented, creative, hardworking people, who give up 10 weeks of their lives for the love of theater.

    Just check your local Friday entertainment section, and I bet you will find some live theater in your community. Go and see the talent in your area.

    And if you have ever had a wish to be involved in theater ... do it in your community.  It is the same work as any Broadway show, and just as rewarding (ok, not monetarily, but still rewarding).

    I started out as a stage manager, and I have learned how to run a light board, build a set, take blocking notes, give line notes, create a rehearsal schedule, cast a show, and even produce a one man show. I have met my best pal and business partner thru the theater, and am a member of the local theater guild board.

    You never know what joy you will find ...

    and for those of you in the ABQ area, come see my show!!!!

    ... when you love someone this much, you gladly put your hand in theirs and go where ever the journey takes you... ~koosah

    by dmb0857 on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:12:54 PM PST

  •  and to ruleoflaw (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Make some magic!!!!!!!!!!!

    ... when you love someone this much, you gladly put your hand in theirs and go where ever the journey takes you... ~koosah

    by dmb0857 on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 05:13:41 PM PST

  •  Thanks ruleof law... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ruleoflaw, dmb0857, Polly Syllabic

    and I know why you do it.

    I've had a love of theater for years and now see 3 or 4 different shows a month by volunteering to usher.

    I love watching the audience before the show, seeing how different we all are and how we will all see the same show but none of us will see it exactly the same.

    The love of theater, you can see it in the young and the old.  It's just wonderful!

    Never regret something that made you smile

    by Texnance on Sun Feb 10, 2013 at 09:06:38 PM PST

  •  Hope your performances go well (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic, ruleoflaw

    as an ex-pat Cheesehead, who found himself working on Broadway for the last 15 years or so, it warms my heart to hear of fresh theater back behind the Cheddar Curtain.

    If we shadows have offended,
    Think but this, and all is mended;
    That you have but slumbered here
    Whilst these visions did appear.
    And this weak and idle theme,
    No more yielding but a dream,
    Gentles, do not reprehend;
    If you pardon, we will mend.
    And, as I am an honest Puck,
    If we have unearned luck
    Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
    We will make amends, ere long,
    Else, the Puck a liar call.
    So, goodnight unto you all!
    Give me your hands, if we be friends,
    And Robin shall restore amends.
    Let the young 'uns in your cast know that if they want to make a career in theater, they can. I know several Wisconsin natives (including yours truly) who are burning it up on Broadway, on TV and in Hollywood.

    It is possible to have a career in The Biz, though working in the Entertainment Industrial Complex is as much a lifestyle choice as a career choice.

    "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." - Tom Robbins - Political Compass sez: -8.25, -7.90

    by ARS on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 10:47:37 AM PST

  •  A Midsummer Night's Dream (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic, ruleoflaw

    One of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I think it's one of the more accessible ones for modern audiences. It addresses several issues that are very front and center for young people (cliques, popularity), and can be very funny when done right.

    The best production I ever saw was in London, with Dawn French playing Bottom. (Odd casting, but it worked beautifully, mostly because of Ms. French's comic talents.)

    On the other hand, I saw an utterly dead production of it last spring at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. (They dwelled on the opening scenes way too long, so the audience was half asleep before they got out to the woods.) Even that production had a great Oberon, though.

    I wish I was in Wisconsin, now. I would most certainly come to your play if I wasn't so far away.

    Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

    by elsaf on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 01:30:23 PM PST

  •  Fond du Lac? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Polly Syllabic, ruleoflaw

    Will the Kossacks you speak of be the pastorfamily?

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 03:51:37 PM PST

    •  Kudos to you for casting children et al (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I did my dissertation on 'Midsummer' it is online, you can find it here:
      Astronomy, Alchemy, Archetypes, an Integrated View of A Midsummer Night's Dream

      I work in SW Florida with a resident company at a 'life fulfilling community'-- working with community artists of all ages, and also with those over 65. It is extremely rewarding.

      The arts help us to continue to be lifelong learners, as well as to be passionate about life, and curiouser and curiouser about who we are and how we all relate...


      Break a Leg!  Congrats to your cast...looks and sounds like a fabulous production!

      “The only way evil flourishes is for good people to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

      by soaglow on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 07:26:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not that I know of. (0+ / 0-)

      I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

      by ruleoflaw on Mon Feb 11, 2013 at 08:41:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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