It was still raining when we crossed the bridge to Prince’s Island.
“Are you sure about this?” This was the kid that was only coming along agreeably because of well-timed ice cream bribing, a legitimate parenting technique.
“I’m sure. The sky is clearing and it will be just fine.” Plus, I’d already paid for parking.
We were heading to Prince’s Island Park to see Shakespeare by the Bow’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The idea of watching a play outside on a warm summer’s night was appealing and the by-donation entry made sense when dragging kids along. But you know how parenting takes so much energy and then, blink! Summer is over. Shakespeare by the Bow had been on our summer to-do list for a few years, and with A Midsummer Night’s Dream playing, I knew this was our year. It didn’t hurt that the kids were a few years older and could potentially get more from Shakespeare. The youngest, who is 10, was strangely the most excited.
Theatre Calgary points out that the first known criticism of the play amusingly came from the diaries of Samual Pepys in 1662. “[We went to] the King’s Theatre, where we saw ‘Midsummer’s Night’s Dream,’ which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.” My son laughed when I read that to the kids and he agreed, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream is now one of Shakespeare’s most popular works and one of my favourites.
The story follows four young lovers and a group of actors through the forest as they unexpectedly and unknowingly encounter a band of mischievous fairies. Pepys may have been right with his ridiculous assessment, as slapstick confusion reigns when the fairies make trouble. The kids laughed at the goofy insults and when there was a clever play on words. The fantastical mix-up of naughty fairies and love-struck mortals make for a rollicking romp through the enchanted forest. It’s a true “fairy tale”, and all ends well when the characters awake from their magical, dream-like night. We enjoyed the drama and comedy of the story.
Enjoy the natural beauty of Prince’s Island Park for this amusing chase of love, identity, and confusion. “I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.”
Tips to Enjoy the Show:
Know the Story: Shakespeare can feel incomprehensible (not just me, I hope) but reading a kid’s version of the story helps. Once you have an idea of the storyline, it’s easier to follow along, even in Shakespearean language. I was also surprised how my ear quickly became accustomed to the dialogue and when combined with the action, it was very easy to understand the story. Theatre Calgary has also provided a play guide to help you make sense of the tangled web of relationships in that enchanted forest.
Make yourself comfortable: Check the weather before you leave and be ready for anything, whether that means toques or sunscreen. A little bug spray doesn’t hurt, either. Don’t forget a blanket to sit on or low festival chairs. If the weather is making you wonder if the show will gone on, you can always check their Facebook or Twitter sites for any cancellations. Speaking of comfort, there are washrooms not far away, under the River Cafe.
Bring a Picnic: Snacks make everything more fun! There are ice cream bars and water for sale, but that’s it. Or, plan for a special treat when the show is over. Some call it bribery. I call it knowing how to play my cards.
Shakespeare by the Bow – A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
When: Playing until August 18, 2019; See here for specific times and dates
Where: Prince’s Island Park
Cost: Pay What You Will