Outdoor Appeal

Theater company presents summer Shakespeare on the lawn.

William Shakespeare’s plays have a long tradition of being performed outside. And the beautiful scenery and balmy Jackson Hole summers just add to the fun.

Off Square Theatre Company is reviving its “Thin Air Shakespeare” series with one of the Bard’s most comical and entertaining pieces “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The free show plays outside the Center for the Arts July 11, 12, 17 and 18.

“One of the fun elements of outdoor theater and especially outdoor Shakespeare is you have dogs barking and babies crying, which make each night of the show different,” Off Square’s Artistic Director and Resident Producer Natalia Duncan said. “It’s less important to remember what Elizabethan theater was like but more important to remember that these plays were written to be performed in this kind of environment.”

The unpredictable nature of being outdoors also makes each performance inimitable, she said.

“It’s a one-time only scenario,” Duncan said. “Whatever happens at the play that night only happens that one time. It makes it more special and keeps it more real. It’s why live performance is so important.”

Last year during the theater company’s performance of “Twelfth Night” one of the actors incorporated a car alarm that was beeping into the performance, said actor Liliana Frandsen, who is playing Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“Normally in the theater it’s very controlled,” she said. “Here it’s ‘Let’s see what’s going to happen’ and you get to interact with that.”

Thin Air Shakespeare got off the ground in 2013 with a medley of some well-known Shakespeare scenes. Last year’s production of “Twelfth Night” was such a success, Off Square decided to do another full-length show.

“We wanted to do something a little bit bigger that would involve more performers and potentially have a broader community appeal,” Duncan said. “It’s one of his most popular plays. Also the story in ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’ lends itself really well to our Thin Air Shakespeare adaptation and creating characters the audience will recognize.”

The show will still use all of Shakespeare’s language but the company is slightly changing it to play with some of the well-known characters through costumes, she said. The two-act show will last about 100 minutes.

The performances are free and spectators are encouraged to bring blankets, low camp chairs and even picnics.

New this year the theater company is collaborating with Jackson restaurants to offer an online picnic basket auction before each show.
“It’s based on the old-fashioned version of a picnic social,” said Off Square’s executive director Clare Payne Symmons.

While some may think Shakespeare’s plays are too highbrow, or hard to understand, the subject matter and jokes are timeless, Frandsen said.
“The language is really appealing,” she said. “It’s really funny and playful and raunchy at times. People don’t realize how much we still have in common with those characters. It’s such a pleasure to watch Shakespeare done really well.”

And with the laid-back, outdoor atmosphere, Thin Air Shakespeare is becoming a must-see every summer.

“The shows are really becoming a staple of the summer’s cultural offerings,” Duncan said. “We want to provide that family offering in the summer that can be a tradition and can be part of what it means to visit Jackson Hole but also what it means to live here.” .