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,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.
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:
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.