For nineteen years community theater people have staged a production of a Shakespearean play on the lawn of Carlin Park on A1A in Jupiter, Florida. Because the site is just a few hundred feet from the Atlantic ocean, the outdoor event has been called Shakespeare By The Sea. The play has always been free to the public. People only have to bring their own chair or blanket and use the upward sloping lawn as the seating area. Bringing one's pet dog and one's own refreshments is encouraged also. The atmosphere has always been relaxed and congenial.
Last evening we attended the first showing of this year's production of A Midsummer-Night's Dream and it was delightful. The set design matched the occasions of the play but more importantly it permitted the many exits and entrances to occur expeditiously and unobtrusively. The dance sequence by The Dancing Fairies looked professionally done. Overall, the acting was well done with special praise for Alan Gerstel as Peter Quince and Kevin Crawford (also the Director) as Bottom. An appreciative audience laughed loudly at all the right places. The only flaw was the sound system which was overloud and out of balance. Shouted speech was often indecipherable.
This year marked the first time the play was performed on a permanent stage built specifically for the event. The architect has designed an open building that resembles a large proscenium arch. Concealed behind and beneath the stage are air-conditioned rooms for dressing, storage, a green room and private restrooms. The cost was $1.6 million.
Shakespeare By The Sea has come a far way from the first productions done in a dusty field with ant hills, and without water or electricity. Park improvments over the years have given us established lawns, rest rooms, drinking fountains and hose bibb outlets for pets. And all is still free but this year, for the first time, the company asks for donations.
I can forsee the future here. The event has become institutionalized. It has a building, or, as bean counters prefer to say, a plant. It will not be long before there is an admission charge and other improvements.
I am reminded again of the truth of an unfailing proverb: Nothing fails like success.