Midsummer: Shakespeare Through the Park
Created by Grace Shelton – IUPUI Senior
Part lighted night walk, part carnival, part immersive theater, this concept aims to transport guests into the fascinating world of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This idea was developed using the Newfields campus in Indianapolis as a hypothetical site for the interactive performance.
Scene 1 – Setting the Stage
Curtains up, the show is about to begin.
Guests arrive at the Toby Theater inside of the Newfields building, and take their seats for the play: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Purple love potion cocktails and candied violets are available in the lobby as the audience waits for the show to start. Instead of starting though, Robin Goodfellow – Puck, our mischievous fairy guide, appears upon the stage…alone. Carrying their own bouquet of purple flowers, they barely mask their glee as they inform the audience that Act 1 Is already over, and Act 2 is upon us!
In order to catch up, the audience needs to move out of the theater and into the gardens. Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius, the lovers unlucky in love, have already absconded to the woods and the fairies have begun to stir with malcontent. We must make haste if we are to dream this Dream.
Puck delivers their message every twenty five minutes as a pre-show, continually leading guests into the garden and into Dream.
“Good morrow, it is ,I Robin Goodfellow – or Puck if thy wishes. Act 1 hast already did conclude, where wast thee? Thy just did miss the lovers! Hermia, Lysander, Helena, Demetrius, ranneth into the woods, one after another. We couldst catch those folk still! But thee best prepare. F’r this night is wild and unpredictable, I cannot bid whither the charm shall take us. Stand up, mine own cater-cousins, grab thy belongings. We wilt make haste and enter our dream!”
Scene 2 – Entering The Dream
We’ve missed Act 1, but if we hurry we can still catch up to the lovers and enter the Dream in time for Act 2. Here we cross from the waking world into the world of Dreams.
Entering the Newfields gardens, and into the Dream, brings guests along a lighted path with lights twinkling, shadows projected, and dark lullabies playing. This transition scene sets up the rest of the fantasy world that lies ahead. Fairies peek from bushes and trees, and we hear laughter from the woods.
***The Mechanicals (Actors: QUINCE, SNUG, FLUTE, SNOUT, and STARVELING) wander the entire garden, lost and looking for Bottom who may or may not be a donkey. Mortals might encounter them here, there, or anywhere else along the way. These players are engaging in traditional promenade theater, and performing Shakespeare’s actual lines as they make their way around the garden. At the top of the hour, the Mechanicals put on their play within a play.
Appropriate music can be heard in each scene, along with some looped audio of the play itself.
Scene 3 – A House Divided: Formal Garden and Front Lawn
The disagreement between Queen Titania and King Oberon is visually apparent as their fairy court has split into two distinct and warring carnivals.
As guests enter the Dream they may stumble upon the rift in the fairy kingdom, King Oberon is angry with Queen Titania and the surroundings have shifted to mirror those bubbling emotions. Two carnivals rage, Titania’s gold and Oberon’s silver. A split fantastical carousel spins in the middle of the scene with warring fairies cavorting on either side.
Guests may play lawn games, watch performances of aerial arts, or frolic at the maypole with either side of the court, but an audience with the King of the fairies will reveal the conflict rife beneath the revels. Silver and gold colored flower crowns, capes, and wings allow guests to declare an allegiance if they wish to enter the fray.
All actors (aside from the Mechanicals*** described above) will be improving inside of their scene as a vignette, so guests can interact with them and the story at a level that is comfortable for each visitor.
A lighted path guides guests deeper into the Dream when they are ready to move on.
Scene 4 – Dreamy Confusion: The Allee
A brambled entrance leads mortals into a mystical hedge maze where our lovers roam lost and confused.
The hedge maze rises from the garden floor to signify the confusion of our lovers and nonsensical nature of this Dream. Guests can wander its paths and try to guide Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius to its inevitable end. All is not as it seems however, as Puck has laced the hedges with his gigantic purple love potion flowers.
Following the lighted path will lead guests out of the maze, but it is the darker paths that hold the secret delights of the evening. Travelers may find clouds that can be eaten, or they may stumble upon a lost soul. Every corner of the maze reveals a new surprise: an adult sized playground, a fountain filled with foam, oversized art, shadows dancing without their owners, or statues moving about of their own accord. This is a confusing (but enchanting) space for a confusing moment in our Dream.
Scene 5 – Grove of Love: Lilly House Back Lawn
Queen Titania and Bottom’s grove of love may whip mortals into a frenzy of their own if they loiter under the lights.
A sparkling dance floor spreads out under a lighted dome and is surrounded by tufted lounges and poufs. Queen Titania and Bottom are joined in their grove by more of the golden fairies from Titania’s court. They lounge about deeply enamored (since they are enchanted!), and dance coordinated waltzes under the dome’s light show when the mood strikes them.
Guests can play pin the tail on the donkey, write love letters, or purchase purple flowers of their own while they wait for the next waltz to begin. Fairies may even ask for a dance partner if a mortal lingers at the grove for too long.
Scene 6 – Puck’s Chaos: Tanner Orchard
The lovers have been hoodwinked by one Robin Goodfellow (Puck) into falling in love with the wrong person. A storm of chaos is brewing – sweeping the mortals up with it.
A faux storm of jealousy is raging here, complete with green lightning, wind, and projected rain. Four life sized statues of our lovers stand in an elaborate enchanted mirror garden as the storm ebbs and swells around them. Puck’s impersonations of their voices ring out from around the space adding to the storm’s cacophony. This is a space of jealousy, chaos, and misguided intentions. Guests can drink their own enchanted cocktails here from Puck’s bar.
Guests will notice the mirrors in the garden are not all stagnant, some are reflecting quotes from the Dream (“Lord, what fools these mortals be!”). Others show images of Puck and his love potion, or they depict our lovers trying to escape the mirrors and their enchantment. Trivia and touch screen/projected games have the power to affect this faux storm environment.
Scene 7 – The Awakening: Recreation Lawn
As Puck rectifies his mistakes, and everyone is disenchanted, our Dream begins to fade. Guests must now traverse the space between sleeping and waking.
A snaking tunnel of projected lights leads guests from the garden and the Dream back to the waking world. Guests see the faces of Puck and Oberon projected onto the trees before entering the winding dark passage. This tunnel is one way, once guests exit the garden they cannot return to the Dream.
The conclusions to our tale are depicted in this tunnel in swirls of color and images: Titania wakes and reconciles with Oberon, Bottom’s human head is restored, the lovers are found by the hunting party, Lysander falls back in love with Hermia. The lullaby music from the entrance gets softer and softer until it can barely be heard at all.
Scene 8 – The Wedding and The End: Garden Terrace
It is time to celebrate our lovers, and enjoy the wedding!
The finale to the play is a wedding for our lovers, and the reception is open to all. Twinkling lights, arbors, white tents, and finely dressed tables surround a raised stage in the middle of a dance floor. Guests can dine on wedding cake and sip champagne while they participate in an occasional toast to our lovers.
Classic wedding songs play on repeat, so guests can dance the Macarena or do the electric slide with a fairy or possibly catch a purple flower bouquet thrown by a bride. They might also catch a play within a play from the Mechanicals if the hour permits. On their way out, guests have the option to purchase branded merchandise as a memento of the collective Dream we all played a part in.
So, good night unto you all.
Newfields currently uses their gardens to host lighted night walks Winterlights and Harvest Nights in the winter and fall. This experience would build on the existing infrastructure from those events, while adding a new interactive theater element during a new season (summer).
Ticket prices are based on current rates for Newfields night walks during the winter and fall. Pre-show numbers are based on the assumption that the Toby Theater has a capacity of 500, and tickets are purchased prior to the event for a specific entry time.
This physical showbill will help guests understand where they are in the story, who the players are, and what interactive moments are available to them in each area. Guests can gamify their experience by collecting all the stickers after completing an interactive moment, or they can act strictly as observers. This encourages participation, but does not demand it, in a Midwest audience that might not be as familiar with interactive theater or immersive experiences.
This presentation and the interactive showbill/sticker were created using free assets from Canva.
The 3D mockup of the hedge maze was created in Unreal 5 using Quixel and Adobe Stock assets.
Concept art was created using Adobe Photoshop.