Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Midsummer Night's Dream—at A Castle

Playing the French horn has provided me with some interesting opportunities, and with my horn in my hands, I have found myself doing things I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise—performing on stage with an orchestra, for one, playing with a community band, for another. I have played at a wedding, performed a solo at a fund-raising luncheon and been part of a pit orchestra for a couple of high school musicals; and outside of playing, I have been involved in organizing events around the orchestra.

Last week, my horn and I were part of one of the most memorable experiences—we were part of the band accompanying a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Mt. Union University in Alliance created a new annual event, Shakespeare At the Castle, because oddly, Alliance has a castle. In the early 1900s, a man named William Morgan, owner of Morgan Engineering Company, built what amounts to a castle on his 50 acres, with the architect traveling to Europe to study the construction styles and designs of actual castles. The family didn't live in it long before Morgan died, and the thing was sold to the Elks Lodge. It was eventually sold again and restored and is now owned by the public school system, which uses it as an administration building.

A smart guy at the university decided the castle would make the perfect setting for Shakespeare productions, the building's owners agreed, and the first play was performed last week with seating on the lawn and the production happening on the balcony/patio. My horn and I took our seat with the band, conducted by Conductor Eric who also wrote the music.

This is the view from where I sat:

I have enjoyed A Midsummer Night's Dream since my English major days in high school, and I used to walk around with an antique pocket edition that looked just like this:

I had it with me when my best friend died my senior year, and I began memorizing portions as a way to work through my grief. The only section that stuck was Puck's epilogue—"If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended..." etcetera. Most of that has faded in my memory now, but I can't hear those lines without recalling the circumstances in which I first learned them.

I have seen this play at community productions in Chicago and once at Regent's Park in London (with one of the characters playing a horn as a prop, actually), but this production on the lawn of this castle with this horn player mostly handling her part was my all-time favorite.

I left the experience completely loving the behind-the-scenes atmosphere of the theater and being a part of such an event, everything from the first laugh from the eager-to-please audience to the their final applause to the sawdust on the floor that traveled home with me, stuck to the bottom of my horn case. I didn't mind that torrential rain drove us indoors to a small theater in town or that I hauled music stands in the back of my car or that a power outage had the players delivering lines in the absolute dark.

I tend to eat up every experience as if it were my first and last at once, and this one was a full meal. "So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends."


Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

There is nothing better than Shakespeare in theater, although I adored Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing a great, great deal.

I love the imagery of sawdust stuck to the bottom of your horn case.

savannah said...

This made me smile for all the right reasons, sweet pea! xoxoxox

Kevin P. Kern said...


Eric Benjamin just alerted me to this blog post; I'm so glad you enjoyed your experience. I was so pleased with the live music, and I can't imagine going forward without music in all of our productions. You musicians impressed me with your talent, professionalism, and flexibility when the skies opened up. Here's hoping for a dryer Taming Of The Shrew!

Kevin (the guy who directed the show)