Monday, August 3, 2015

On Summertime and Shakespeare ...

For many, it's Summertime and the living is easy ...

Summertime ... That all-too-brief time of year here in Michigan. The time when people explore relaxation on their boats, on their patios, on a lawn chair. Even the chores are lower-key ... mowing a lawn, weeding a garden, watering plants and flowers.

Kids are off school. People flock to the beach or go camping. It's a lazy time of flip flops, slip on sneakers, shorts, t-shirts and sundresses. 

Not so for my son and me. It's the middle of Summertime but our weeks are anything but easy. We don't lounge on the patio. We aren't taking leisurely walks or bike rides. We aren't on a boat or at the beach. And we aren't in chill out mode. In fact, our schedule is slammed.

Strangely, though, we don't mind. As odd as it may sound to you, there is a rhythm to our Summertime and a joy that arises from the often hectic work we choose to do.  

What, you ask, might that be? Can a crazy schedule in the summer elicit a feeling that All's Well? Heck, in the Summertime, most people agree that To Be busy is just not To Be. To find a calendar filled with commitments and deadline must be a Comedy of Errors. Surely an over-scheduled calendar sounds like A Winter's Tale. Measure for Measure chill-axing in July and August is the thing to do.

Let me transport you to my Summer for just a moment. Picture this ... the Moon is full and the stars twinkle. Leaves rustle easily on lofty branches in the night-time breeze and the heavens are my office ceiling. Street noise fades into the music of cicadas. The smell of popcorn wafts thru the air along with the fresh scents of suntan lotion and mosquito repellent. Around me, sounds of children's laughter blends in to tones of iambic pentameter. I'm in a park ... my Summertime office. But right now this park is far from "typical." My Park is decorated with tents and bleachers and fire flies ... with  scaffolding that climbs upward, lighting "trees" and speakers.  

There is a stage in this park. Wooden. Artistic. Different every year. It blends in to its environment, quiet ... until a troupe of actors emerge to utter words in its open air arena. And the park ... the green space of picnics and frisbee golf ... is suddenly filled with blankets, lawn chairs and hundreds of people. They come every summer to my Park to experience the words of the Bard as they were meant to be heard .... in an open air space where trees and stars form the only roof. Why do they come, you ask? Well, to hear Shakespeare. And the event would be Shakespeare in the Park. 

It's a crazy season we have, my son and I, since we signed on for Shakespeare in the Park nearly 10 years ago. Starr-Jaycee Park is our office and my now 16-year old son -- who has two years with the program on me and is happy to brag about that fact -- is working there even more than I am. He has the desire to support this program with his time and gifts too. He's passionate about it and has been known to do work he never does at home while in the Park. And when it happens to rain, he will run about covering lights and equipment just like any of the adult staff. 

To Be busy with Shakespeare in the Summertime is a blessing and something that has sparked my passion since I first became involved. See, I don't sit well. I like challenges. I like to be busy. My son feels the same. When he was little, he used to say that the two weeks of Shakespeare in the Park were "the best part of the summer."  10 years in, I play various roles in the company -- though oddly none on the stage -- while my son handles sound design. My spotlight is welcoming patrons to the Park, coordinating fundraisers, managing the playbill, and a host of other odd jobs the company founder sends my way. I'm passionate about sharing the shows, the youth education opportunities and the company with others. At a time in my life when I was honestly floundering, Shakespeare called and I'm so glad I answered. 

Oh there are times when it's a bit too busy. Isn't that always the way it is? Either you have too much time on your hands or you are rushing about. It's either To Be or Not To Be ... but 

This program gives something to me, to my son, and to others that I have never before witnessed. My daughter looks forward to KidsAct! acting "camp" every summer. And the passion it creates --the people and friendships that are forged because of it -- well, it's like nothing else.

A Light in Yonder Window broke for me ... it was Shakespeare in the Park. And I am so glad I climbed through that balcony and took a leap of faith to become part of it. I give it my heart, soul and time every summer. And it repays me in the smiles I see on others' faces, the reviews applauding sound improvements noted in the newspaper that light up my son's eyes, and the joy I get hearing laughter and applause as the words of the Bard come to life every year.

All the world's a stage and we are merely players. So go forth, my band of brothers, once more into the breach. Explore Shakespeare -- or whatever joy or passion may beckon you -- even if it means your Summertime won't be easy. 

I stood the other night outside the "theatre" and took in what this special group of people that I am a part of worked together to create. Moonlight shone on the stage, cicadas and the sounds of traffic echoed behind me, actors in lovely costuming decorated the stage and an audience brought the park to life. Yep ... despite the rush to get there, grabbing Taco Bell, Slurpees or McDonald's en route and in between productions, the disruption of family life, and the hours necessary to make this program happen ... it is so worth it. 

My son and I discovered the joys of genuine inspiration and passion in Starr Jaycee Park with Shakespeare Royal Oak nigh on 10 years ago. We come to the Park because we love what we do and we love to do it. What began with one man's vision continues to grow and touch lives and hearts and minds and souls 15 years later.  I invite you to stand in the moonlight and take it in ... 

Discover what inspires and creates passion for you and it won't matter if your Summertime isn't easy. Buy a ticket. Don't sit on the patio and allow the summer to pass you buy. Find your Park like I found mine ... 

To Be ... or Not to Be. That is the question ...
                                                                                                              -- Jenni