Desperate lovers, a fairy king and queen, a woman with a donkey’s head and a scamp with Cupid’s arrow in flower form are taking over Yosemite National Park on Earth Day weekend.
Highlighting UC Merced’s special partnership with Yosemite, Shakespeare in Yosemite enters its second year with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” adapted and directed by UC Merced Professor Katherine Steele Brokaw and Professor Paul Prescott from the University of Warwick in Coventry, U.K.
“We have both performed in outdoor Shakespeare productions and know not only how enjoyable they can be, but how Shakespeare festivals can have transformative effects on communities and the lives of individuals,” Prescott said of the inspiration for what is becoming an annual tradition at UC Merced. “If the National Parks system can be described as ‘America's Best Idea,’ then maybe free Shakespeare in the park might be ‘America's Second Best Idea.’ In putting free Shakespeare in Yosemite, we're drawing on these powerful, progressive traditions.”
This year’s free performances are headlined by Lisa Wolpe, founder and artistic director of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company, along with Connie Stetson, known to park visitors for her performances as Sarah Hawkins in the Yosemite Conservancy’s Yosemite Theatre. Yosemite Ranger and UC Merced alumna Jessica Rivas, Ranger Shelton Johnson, UC Merced and Merced College students, community actors and Devon Glover, AKA the Sonnet Man — an internationally known hip-hop Shakespeare artist — round out the cast.
The play will be offered twice daily in the park from April 20-22, coinciding with the park’s annual Earth Day festival. Visitors can make a day of it by attending Yosemite’s festival events, such as tree plantings, nature walks and trail cleanups, and relax for 90 minutes with the hilarity, music and whimsy of Shakespeare’s most fantastical play.