A feast of fairies and fun in Forest Park as Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream charms St. Louis, Missouri with colour, comedy and music

Images by J. David levy

Helena and Lysander
Helena and Lysander

St. Louis, Missouri is perhaps best known for the Gateway Arch, baseball and high crime rates – lesser remarked upon is its ever-growing artistic vibrancy. Shakespeare Festival St. Louis is an example of that fervor, bringing theatrical magic to the schools and streets of the city.

Oberon and Titania
Oberon and Titania

Every June, the organization stages a Shakespeare play in the historic Forest Park, inviting people of all generations to enjoy timeless entertainment. Many families and friend circles make it a tradition to attend, and often picnic as they await the dramatic unfoldings.

Midsummer Photo 3
Hermia

For their 16th season, director Rick Dildine brings fresh ingredients to a play already famous for enchantments: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As the sky darkens over Shakespeare Glen, the glowing stage draws everyone inescapably into a dreamy world in which comedy, romance and fairies cast their collective spell.

Puck
Puck

A three-story sylvan background intrigues spectators from the onset. Painted doors line each level of the structure, so mortals can disappear into the woods and fairies can transcendently gaze down.
Dildine says: “The whimsical approach to the set helps take us on a journey through the woods and into our dreams.”

Titania Singing
Titania singing

Colorful costumes gradually adorn the stage; Titania’s (Nancy Anderson) ethereal blue gown and Hermia’s (Cassia Thompson) candy pink dress pop like enchanted flowers. The Disney-esque costuming reflects Dildine’s underlying goal to “make a play that would allow kids to fall in love with theatre”.

Midsummer Photo 2
From beginning to end, the actor ensembles execute the three intertwining stories with crystal clarity and bring oomph to their roles at each comedic beat. Cassia Thompson, Rachel Christopher (Helena), Peter Winfrey (Demetrius) and Justin Blanchard (Lysander) vividly express the rough course of love, as jealousy and confusion simmer into boiling conflicts that send the audience into laughter with every jab.

Angry Hermia
Angry Hermia

The shenanigans of the crude thespians are brought to full comedic potential, and Puck’s impish movements (performed by twins Austin Glen Jacobs and Ryan Alexander Jacobs) manifest the play’s whimsical humor. Original songs by Peter Mark Kendall appear throughout the performance, establishing a fanciful mood with a pleasant folk sound.

Midsummer Photo
Impressively, in a seamless blend of acting and musical talent, the actors are also the musicians and vocalists, crooning verses about nature, lostness and dreams. The engaging music, filled with violins, guitars and accordions, brings a romantic texture to the story that honors the Bard’s melodious ingenuity.

Bottom and Accordion Player
Shakespeare’s otherworldly imagination resonates luminously in Forest Park – and surely the director’s wish for younger spectators to fall in love with theatre has come true.

mechanicals
The Mechanicals

A Midsummer Night’s Dream ended on 26 June, but go here for more on the production and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis