Downtown Sarasota offers an array of unique things to do on any given night of the week. One of the highlights this month was the presentation of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Selby Gardens.
The FSU/Asolo Conservatory is a three-year MFA program for actors. During the students' second year, they put on a four-show season, typically in the smaller Cook Theater, located at the Asolo just north of downtown Sarasota. Any of the plays they put on are worthy of attending; I've always been amazed at the talent fostered in the Conservatory! However, if you only attend one, let it be Shakespeare in the Garden. Actors and audiences alike have been fortunate to benefit from the partnership with downtown’s Selby Gardens, with a performance of Twelfth Night in 2015, A Midsummer Night's Dream this month, and will continue next season with an outside presentation of Much Ado About Nothing.
The stage was set up in the foreground with limited seating surrounding it. A food truck with French cuisine, wine, and beer was at hand as the doors opened a half hour before sunset. Ever-thoughtful, there was also a bug-spray station when you walked in, of which nearly everyone was taking advantage. As you can see from the picture at the top, the view did not disappoint when you entered the seating area. The performance began at sundown, very apropos for the nighttime setting of the play. Actors took advantage of the surroundings, positioned not only on the stage front-and-center, but under trees on the periphery, hidden behind bushes by the audience, and even from the peninsula across the water behind the main stage.
Shakespeare itself does not need a review. We know A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of his most renown comedies. Nor does Selby Gardens require one--the longstanding oasis walkable from downtown Sarasota is far from unknown. But the combination of the two created the perfect scene for both. The gardens complimented the play and the play complimented the gardens. With full sound mixing, music, amplification, and lighting, the performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream on waterfront downtown Sarasota simply was fantastic. The final performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream happen this weekend. I cannot wait for Much Ado next year and hope to see many of you there at this special downtown experience!