So, you've found yourself on a warm summer evening with nothing to do. You’d like to entertain yourself at the theater, but what if you’re not in the mood to waste a gorgeous sunset stuck inside a dark venue?...Outdoor performance comes to the rescue! So, you've found yourself on a sticky, drizzly summer evening with a plan: an outdoor show. But what if you’re not in the mood to sit through a monsoon? Well, that’s the unpredictable beauty of seeing theatre out in the open.
I have been part of both thrilling scenarios, though most recently the latter. I experienced the full whirlwind in about four hours at Shakespeare in the Park’s Comedy of Errors:
Waiting in the growing humidity on standby;
Receiving a front row ticket just three minutes before the show’s start;
Watching the audience slowly trickle out as the downpour began;
Hearing that the performance would be paused until the thunder passed;
Getting drenched in spite of all attempts;
Cheering along with the rest of the dedicated viewers when the play resumed;
And being thrilled by the rest of the show, because of the relentless rain.
Outdoor theatre is a true beast of its own—a raging, temperamental, glorious beast. It offers a whole grab bag of opportunities and challenges. As the Shakespeare in the Park actors literally slipped and slid their way through their show, any slightest reference to water or rain was met with wild laughter.
In these settings the environment is a technician; it provides real time lights, sounds, smells, scenery. And it is also a character. It adds its own voice to a staged story, depending on its mood during any given performance. In the final scene of The Merchant of Venice, young lovers praise the shining moon; it doesn't get more magical than a real moon shining where the audience and actors can see it together. It reminds us that humans are not gods—that sometimes we have plans for the evening and the weather thinks otherwise. It reminds us how much power we have as creators, to devise something in harmony with this whole other variable. Above all, the most delightful part of outdoor theatre is the incredible people it brings together: when you’re with a bunch of other crazy, devoted art-lovers who are willing to take a risk, you feel a kind of electric energy that’s hard to find anywhere else.
- Emily B.