When the Bacchus Theatre Company promises Shakespeare on the green, it means it: the free, frisky production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will play outdoors on the Oakmont Golf Course July 29 and 30. The troupe of Bay Area actors (including Sonoma’s Maya Smoot) takes a not-so reverent (which is to say, historically accurate) approach to the work, interacting with the audience and the unique setting.
An actor heckling the audience? The devilish Puck, raiding a picnic basket? Staid this is not. Director Bruce Avery calls it “full contact Shakespeare.”
Avery, a professor at San Francisco State University, started the company three years ago. “The founding principle was to make the work accessible,” he said. “Shakespeare is not locked away in a New York Theatre.”
To keep the productions free, the actors all volunteer, and the costumes are thrift shop modern. Another money-saver: “You don’t have to pay the playwright”
Free admission eliminated one barrier. The freedom the actors have to make the show of the moment, while staying true to the script, is another. Though ‘Midsummer’ is Shakespeare’s most produced play — “It’s one everybody’s seen, and the one everybody’s been in” – the script invites fresh interpretation.
“The actors can really approach it with fresh eyes, and make different choices,” Avery said.
He recalled a pilgrimage to New York to get a full dose of the real thing: Sir Ian Richardson as King Lear. He went five night in a row, and every “and every performance was different.”
After the first two summer productions of Shakespeare tragedies, including last year’s “Hamlet” at the Coppola Winery, Avery decided, “We’ve got to lighten up.” Thus the Bard’s first comedy, which Avery cut from three hours to 90 minutes out of deference to the modern attention span.
“To appreciate Shakespeare,” he said, “you have to be awake.”
Photo: Maya Smoot, foreground, with fellow members Bacchus Theatre Company, was the recipient of the Sonoma 2013 Student Creative Arts Award.
The free production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” plays Tuesday and Wednesday, July 29-30 at the Oakmont Golf Course. 7 p.m. Food and beverage for purchase. 7025 Oakmont Drive. 539.9215.