Have you ever seen Shakespeare in the Park? Have you ever been sitting there with your friends and fancy picnic basket thinking, “This is terrible!” Me too. Even the smuggled-in wine can’t make the experience of watching actors holler into lav mics any more tolerable.
Sunday night in Echo Park, at Naked Shakes LA‘s inaugural performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it was a different story. The concept? “Real Actors. One Rehearsal. Risky, fun, entertaining performances.” One rehearsal for one show, just like Shakespeare and the players at the Globe did it back in the day, when scripts were still written by hand.
The witty romance of Midsummer is a play that literally takes place in the woods, so what better stage than an Echo Park lawn? It began with the
minstrels debut of Caleb Noah & The Gypsy, serenading us with sad love duets. Even with a beer or bottle of wine, it’s so easy for Shakespeare to be boring as shit, watching on a traditional proscenium stage, the poetry falling on deaf ears. One of the reasons it is a tough sell for the modern audience is because it’s so linguistically difficult, the form of iambic pentameter setting it on a pedestal like ancient literature.
So why do people still perform it? Because it still makes sense. Shakespeare’s characters talk about the heart, the head, the earth and the heavens. It’s not as if those topics don’t resonate with our modern human condition.
Naked Shakes LA is some of the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen. When the audience is seated within the action of the play, it can really come alive, the language becoming penetrating and visceral. At one point Oberon touched me on the head while he passed by me to do his scene with Titania. With traffic buzzing by and pedestrians stopping for a gander, the actors had plenty of stimuli to work around. So let them be applauded for their bravery for performing so nakedly in public. They all exhibited such a great spirit, so casual and fresh. Some of the best moments were the accidents, including when actors flubbed lines and dropped scripts on the floor.
Top 3 “Naked” Moments:
–Sam Bianchini, Event Organizer/Actor extraordinaire running behind the fence on the sidewalk as Puck, waving her arms yelling towards a couple of guys standing on the sidewalk, “You can come inside and watch the play!”
–Jessica Richmond as Peter Quince during the craftsmen’s play-within-a-play of Pyramus and Thisbe, standing behind the action, script in hand, mouthing the words, her hand gestures matching the emotion like so many of our high school theater directors
-Dressed in their crisp white button-down shirts, ties, and name tags, two young Mormon lads walk past on the sidewalk, and stop to watch for a few minutes with us pagan heathens drinking PBR.
It was a unique way to spend a Sunday evening, and I for one can’t wait for the next installment!
Naked Shakes LA will be presenting Macbeth this October, location TBA.