Thank you for making this summer of Shakespeare such a successful and memorable summer. We’ve performed before representatives from Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, in the rain, and even had one particularly memorable performance in Barnes and Noble at Vanderbilt. As You Like It will soon take its final bow, but don’t shed those tears yet! You have one more weekend to stretch out under the stars at the Centennial Park Bandshell and bid Shakespeare in the Park and summer farewell!
So here are a few reasons why you should grab your lawn chairs (or picnic blankets) and head to the park:
1. It’s free!
All performances of As You Like It are offered free to the public. Nashville is one of only about 10 U.S. cities that still have a summer outdoor Shakespeare festival, where anybody and everybody can show up to enjoy a performance without paying a cent. We do ask for a $10 donation (so we can keep bringing affordable Shakespeare to you), but if you can’t pay, we won’t turn you away. Shakespeare for everybody!
2. It’s fun!
As You Like It with guitars, banjos, ukuleles and a little contra dancing? This is not a stuffy, pretentious production of Shakespeare. In the words of Nashville Scene Theater Critic Martin Brady “”Where Shakespeare in the Park is concerned, this summer’s extravaganza, As You Like It, ranks up there with the folk-friendliest of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s annual efforts. …the show takes on the flavor of the Bard meets O Brother, Where Art Thou?, with a lively cast energetically conveying the spirit of director Denice Hicks’ reimagined 1930s setting.” In other words: It’s a thing of joy not to be missed!
Which leads us to:
3. Every night is a Hootenanny.
Have you ever been to a hootenanny? If you’re from the South, you know exactly what we’re talking about. In an attempt to clearly define it, Merriam-Webster states that a hootenanny is “a gathering at which folksingers entertain often with the audience joining in.” We would add that it’s a celebration of togetherness that fills your heart with joy and love. With banjos. And we have one every night in the park. You’ll clap, some of you will dance, and you’ll leave the park full of joy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. George Clooney.
Ok. True confessions: George Clooney won’t actually be appearing on our stage, but we have no doubt that he would 100% appreciate the O Brother Where Art Thou? meets the Marx Brothers spirit of our show. (Not only that, but we’re pretty sure Brian Russell’s Adam/Martext/Hymen is a distant cousin of Clooney’s Everett.) And, let’s be honest, the characters of that now classic Cohen Brothers film, would be right at home in the world on our stage. Americana music is at the heart of the film, as it is in our Tent City, and it is easy to imagine Rosalind and Orlando in a world of working camps, sharecropper cottages, cotton fields, populist politicians, hobos on freight trains and optimism. With original music by David Olney, we aim to have you dancing and singing all the way home in the same way the Soggy Bottom Boys do!
4. David Olney
Have we mentioned David Olney? This summer we are honored to have celebrated Nashville singer/songwriter David Olney on stage with us. Not only in the role of Amiens (one of the lords attending on Duke Senior in the forest of Arden), but as a musician and songwriter. Olney offers six original songs for our show, set in the era of the Great Depression. The music is in the style of a traditional string band, under the direction of the Musical Heritage Center of Middle Tennessee’s Stan Lawrence (an extremely talented musician in his own right).
5. Shakespeare makes you smarter.
Good news! According to this article, hearing the flowery language of Shakespeare actually engages parts of your brain that just hearing plain old normal words does not, and therefore could improve (or at least maintain over time) brain ability. Professor Philip Davis from the University of Liverpool’s School of English predicts that without this kind of creative language, you could experience “a gradual deadening of the brain.” Perhaps you should come see As You Like It twice.
6. It’s at the park.
The great outdoors. The smell of fresh cut grass. The sound of wind rustling leaves on the trees. Geese. The challenges of both attending and putting on a Shakespeare production outdoors in the late summer are endless. But the benefits of attending a Shakespeare play performed as Shakespeare as Shakespeare would have done it (outside) far outweigh them. If you have never seen a Shakespeare play performed outdoors, hauled your favorite picnic stuffs and lawn chairs to the park, friends and family in tow, you’ve never really seen one. It’s magic.
7. It’s dog-friendly! (Enough said)
If none of those reasons work for you, come see Shakespeare in the Park so that Shakespeare in the Park continues to exist. And who doesn’t love to oogle what other people pull out of their picnic baskets?
As You Like It will run through September 14th at Centennial Park in Nashville. More info here.