‘A great unicorn puzzle piece:’ PSiP presents ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Westinghouse Park

For cast and crew of Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, clear skies are a must during performances.

Lauren Scheller-Wolf, PSiP’s Stage Manager, said her job during production is to make sure everything runs smoothly during a performance. She said the outdoor performances could be challenging due to local variable weather conditions.

“These are things that you wouldn’t have to worry about in a normal theater space,” says Scheller-Wolf. “If it rains, we have to be prepared for it.”

PSiP is showing its 18th season of free Shakespeare plays this month, including the romantic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The performance will continue on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons through September 25 in parks throughout Pittsburgh. PSiP performed for the first time ever at Westinghouse Park in Homewood on Saturday. They also performed at Frick Park and Highland Park earlier in the month.

The play revolves around four Athenians fleeing into the forest. A mischievous fairy, Puck, casts a spell to make two of the men fall in love with the same woman. Throughout the story, the four Athenians chase each other while Puck plays pranks on them.

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Scheller-Wolf said that performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” outdoors makes the story even more fantastic, as the setting matches the naturist scene in the original play. As the crew moves from one park to another, she said they have to take the changing environment into account.

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“Every time we set up, it will be a little different because the floor is different,” said Scheller-Wolf. “There are stones, there are seedpods falling from the trees. So I think it’s a really unique way of looking at Shakespeare.”

Jennifer Tober, PSiP’s founder and artistic director, said the crew had found Westinghouse to be an attractive venue since 2007 high crime rate in the home forest.

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“We’ve had our eye on Westinghouse for a number of years,” Tober said. “It’s ideal because it’s right in Homewood and there aren’t really a lot of cultural places there. And Westinghouse is a beautiful park.”

During Saturday’s performance, the crew experienced various disturbances, such as people playing loud music and talking over the performers who were performing.

Tracey D. Turner, an actress who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, played Titania on the show. She said she used to live in the nearby neighborhood and, as a person of color, was saddened that audiences didn’t reflect the neighborhood’s cultural diversity.

“There used to be a lot of violence and crime. Now it’s so gentrified to me I don’t even recognize it. With that said, they reopened the park for functions,” Turner said. “And it’s sad on the one hand because I don’t see enough people in the audience who look like me. I don’t see enough people who look like me living in the neighborhood anymore.”

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Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

According to Turner, the audience for each performance changes with the neighborhood. This requires a high degree of adaptability from the actors.

“We’re going to have a completely different audience at the University of Pittsburgh on Friday night — it’s going to be young, which means we’re going to be completely different, which means we’ve really created theater because it’s different,” Turner said.

Turner added that the role of Titania means a lot to her since she played the same character in her freshman year at CMU.

“I actually played [Titania] academic year at the CMU. So many, many moons later I can play it again,” Turner said. “And having given birth to two girls, lived a little and traveled a lot, I think I brought a lot more into the role at that age than I did 30 years ago when I was a lot younger.”

Tober said the “well drawn” characters made A Midsummer Night’s Dream a remarkable play.”

“It’s one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies,” said Tober. “It has really richly drawn characters. They are not one dimensional. They are all really unique and complex.”

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Kalee George, who played the tailor and the fairy on the show, thinks that the fact that audiences can easily relate to the themes in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” makes the play a classic.

“It has such universal themes of the frivolity of love. And everyone knows what it’s like to be in love with someone but they don’t love you back,” George said. “And how love can make us do very stupid and stupid things.”

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Like all of Shakespeare’s other plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is filled with early modern English that can be very difficult to speak. George said learning Shakespeare is like learning any other language.

After years of familiarizing herself with Shakespeare’s work, since performing her first Shakespearean monologue, George said she was anxious to understand a character.

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

“[The challenging part] would just be figuring out how these characters fit together. Because everyone can come up with their own idea of ​​who their character is,” George said. “But if it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the group, you’ll have to find another way to do that.”

George also said that it’s important for the actors to fit their roles and fit into the group, and she’s the perfect character for both of them.

“You could be the perfect piece for a unicorn puzzle piece or you could be beautiful, glittery, colorful, but they make a puzzle out of a seal. And that’s why you just don’t quite fit into this puzzle. But you’re a great unicorn puzzle piece, you just have to find the one that suits you,” George said. “And I think I fit in well with that direct vision and with the other people in the cast.”

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