Shakespeare in the park attracts diverse audience with authentic performance

Ria Parikh | Staff Writer

Sometimes, the most powerful plays in theatre are free.

On Saturday, August 5 the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company performed the comedy “The Merry Wives of Windsor” at their Shakespeare in the Park event. The event was free and took place at Summit Park in Blue Ash; there was also a showing at Cottell Park the day before.

Bridget McCarthy, who plays Mistress Paige and the host, said Shakespeare should be shared with people in today’s society because his work teaches people about navigating through life as a human being.

“Shakespeare in general is very important because he tells us what it’s like to be a human,” McCarthy said. “The fact that he’s been dead for 400 years and his work is still relevant and funny means he was on to something. If we listen and do the work with truth, pay attention, and do it carefully and with craft, we can illuminate some of things he was trying to say about what it means to be a human being.”

McCarthy said the silliness in this particular play is powerful in uniting a group of people through fun and laughter.

“This play is just fun,” McCarthy said. “It’s a good time. Today’s world is really dark and scary, and there’s something about getting a lot of different people in a room together and laughing at stupid people.”

Jennifer Amiott is familiar with the work of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and she said they excel at keeping the audience engaged throughout the show.

“They get the audience more involved,” Amiott said. “I think that’s important. I know that’s not something you see a lot when you go to a more upscale theater. It helps a lot to make the audience feel like they are more a part of the show, to keep it entertaining and to keep their attention.”

The Shakespeare company can introduce viewers to Shakespeare’s work for the first time. Maria Beaucage said seeing the Shakespeare Company performing multiple plays increases her appreciation for Shakespeare’s work.

“Seeing the plays definitely helps (rather than) just reading it,” Beaucage said. “It is meant to be performed, so when you see it performed you understand why it is considered such great literature.”

Beaucage said that seeing the play in a more casual environment helps enhance the comedic tone of the play.

“It’s nice because it’s a comedy,” Beaucage said. “Having it in a more relaxed setting lends itself more to that comical aspect.”

The fact that the play is free contributes to the diversity in the audience and allows the actors to receive more honest feedback, McCarthy said.

“It is a self-selected group of people who decided to go to a Shakespeare play, but anyone in theory can come to one of these,” McCarthy said.  “People don’t have to pay 40 bucks for a ticket so it automatically diversifies audiences. (It) keeps actors more honest, because people just aren’t going to laugh if we’re not funny, whereas if someone paid 40 bucks for a ticket, they would be like, ‘We’re laughing (regardless) because we paid a lot of money for this.’”

McCarthy hopes that through the performances of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, people will take more ownership of Shakespeare and feel more entitled to enjoying it.

“This belongs to you, this is yours,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a college degree, or you’ve never opened a book in your life, this can mean something to you.”

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Photos by Andrea Hefferan.