Setting the Stage
But to see an outdoor play — especially classic Shakespeare in a natural setting — is worth all the, well, potential drama.
This season French Creek Theatre presents Romeo and Juliet outdoors at Lorain County Metro Parks’ Lakeview Park in Lorain, Aug. 17, 18 and 19. It is the first time the theater will offer an outdoor play. It’s also its first Shakespeare performance, aside from a past youth production. Sixteen actors from Northeast Ohio will be on stage, an elevated 24-by-24-foot portable platform that allows for great viewing no matter where you place your lawn chair or blanket.
“It was time to do it,” says McNally, who has extensive Shakespeare training and experience, including work with the Great Lakes Theater. “Lakeview is a spectacular location with a beautiful fountain, the beach and lake to your right of the stage and a beautiful rose garden behind you. The play’s set is simple because nature takes care of itself, and we can then focus on characters and the story.”
Throughout the centuries, William Shakespeare’s plays have most strongly been associated with the Globe Theatre in London, originally built in 1599. As an open theater, the Globe presents a strong precedent for performing Shakespeare outdoors.
Romeo and Juliet, the enduring story of two star-crossed young lovers, is the ideal choice for Lakeview, says McNally, who has been with the park district full time since 2013. As director, he wanted to offer a popular Shakespearean play that was familiar to many people, as well as a great piece of theater.
“For our first show, we wanted to do something that when people heard the title, they would say, ‘Oh, yeah, absolutely, we’re going.’ Romeo and Juliet is right up there with Hamlet as one of the most recognizable titles. You don’t want to pick anything too obscure,” McNally says.
Romeo and Juliet also has the language and emotions that are conducive for an outdoor setting, according to McNally. The play is suitable for those at least 12 years old.
“It starts as a total comedy, a lovers’ romance. After the third act, it turns to a brutal tragedy. So you get all the parts of a great play — love, hate, fighting scenes,” says McNally, adding the free performances begin at 7 p.m. each night. (Lakeview Park, 1800 W. Erie Ave., Lorain, 440-245-1193; French Creek Nature and Arts Center, 440-949-5200.)