Summer is free Shakespeare-in-the-park season in many towns, but I would not have succeeded in seeing the exhilarating, colorful, witty production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Griffith Park here during my visit in Los Angeles if my friend Sarah had not called and invited me to join her, her partner and their two friends.
She is armed with the most succulent picnic dinner imaginable (rich tossed salad, local produce, dates that must’ve been picked five minutes earlier, cheeses, homemade guacamole, soft breads – don’t ask.) And if that isn't all, Sarah’s generous donation to the performing Independent Shakespeare Company netted her comfy seats in a great location on the sloping hill in front of the stage.
While dining in unaccustomed elegance with lovely plates and piles of delectables, I also get to know Sarah’s people a bit – folks with interesting personal histories and social justice jobs. One of her friends generously sits on the ground so that I can be seated, since only four chairs were ordered. These people are kind. I feel quite lucky to be included.
Armed with anti-bug spray necessitated by my body’s over-reaction to my last insect bite (I’m on prednisone for 18 days as a result) and warned by Sarah to bring along a couple of layers, I sink into a crowd of thousands for laughs and thrills and a level of audience participation Shakespeare himself probably never enjoyed.
I find it hard in the last years to feel happy, but tonight I am absorbed into the Bard’s comedic blurring of dreams and reality, of Renaissance and modern garb, of errors and spells, music and verse, powered by love and hormones – and most of all by language. This is what great writing can do – take you away from the world of attacks on all we fought our whole lives to achieve and deposit you elsewhere, immersing you in someone else’s imagination. The acting is divine, the humor is pitch-perfect and I can see really well.
Afterwards, endorphins flowing in a way that has been rare for me these past couple of years, we squeeze back into the car – they’ve given me the front seat because I’m the fattest among us, and once dropped back to my car, I use the GPS I brought from Boston with me to return to where I am staying, crossing through so many varied neighborhoods that L.A. seems, in some ways, physically more diverse than any place I know.
Free art. Let a thousand productions bloom.
P.S. The picture of the stage is the first one I’ve ever taken and posted with my new iPhone.