I cannot believe I’ve never been to Shakespeare in the Park before, especially since I love any and every excuse to eat outside on a picnic blanket. Up until my dear friend Matt Holmes was cast as Christopher Marlow in Shakespeare in Love, I had never even heard of Shakespeare Dallas and now I want to shout my love of this outdoor theatre from the rooftops. Or a balcony!
“What’s in a name?” asks Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare in the Park for instance could be called Shakespeare by Moonlight, Shakespeare with Wine, Shakespeare under the Stars, or Shakespeare with a Picnic and still be just as wonderful. The annual summer-long Shakespeare festival is held at an outdoor amphitheater in a lovely park off of I-30 just east of Dallas. There’s a large hill sloping down to an outdoor stage so you can enjoy theatre like people did thousands of years ago. In fact, the last time I watched a show outdoors was a decade ago when I saw Aida in Greece in a crumbling ancient Roman theatre next to the ruins of the Theatre of Dionysus.
The summer Shakespeare in the Park season is a long one; you have six whole weeks to catch both shows! Performances start at 8:15 pm and general admission begins seating at 7:30 pm. (Purchasing online allows you to enter at 7:00 pm – do that for the best seat!) Outside food, wine, and beer are all permitted and picnicking is encouraged. Don’t have lawn chairs? You can rent some on site for $5 or $8 for two. Tickets start at $10 and parking is $5 per car.
I love how the seating is laid out. Tall lawn chairs must sit in the back at the top of the hill, low lawn chairs may sit in the middle, and the front is reserved for picnic blankets. My friend Mark and I set up our picnic blanket right in front to have an unobstructed view. I never strained to see and I don’t think there’s a bad seat on the lawn. Ours was particularly fun because the actors numerous times came down the steps and stood so close we could have touched them. One particularly moving scene between Shakespeare and Viola took place not two feet from my picnic blanket. I felt as though I was having a private show!
What all did we pack, you ask? We packed up my favorite picnic blanket, a large pillow (always bring a pillow when picnicking so you can comfortably lay down), bug spray, sunscreen, flowers, Chateau St. Jean brut sparkling rosé (note to self: LOVED IT, buy again), and a picnic basket full of goodies: prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe, grapes, minted strawberries (strawberries with a bit of simple syrup and mint from my garden), and a grilled chicken salad. For the salad, I grilled seasoned chicken cutlets, asparagus, and bell pepper, and tossed all of that with long grain rice, avocado chunks, tomatoes from my garden, Feta cheese, kalamata olives, marcona almonds, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. Not bad considering I didn’t know I was going to picnic until 3 pm!
I also packed Valerie’s Thyme amaretto kissed pecans and some caramel popcorn that I brought back from my recent trip to Fredericksburg. I had no time to bake before the show and I’m so glad that I had fun sweet treats to throw in my picnic basket at a moment’s notice.
I cannot say enough wonderful things about this event and atmosphere. I really can’t even remember the last time I had a lovelier evening than I had at Shakespeare in the Park. We could not have asked for a better night either. It was 74 degrees outside after dark! That’s a full ten degrees cooler than usual this time of year. As the sun set, fireflies started to twinkle in the night sky all around the stage. Fog from a boat scene rolled right off the stage and onto our picnic blanket, pulling me right into the scene. I had half a mind to leap up and give my former actress self a brief monologue but don’t worry, I resisted.
The acting was absolutely top-notch. Stephanie Oustalet, who plays Shakespeare’s love interest Viola, has a new fan in me, and Montgomery Sutton isn’t playing a part in this show; Montgomery Sutton is Shakespeare, feeling every moment so intensely that for a moment you might think you’re a fly on the wall in the 1500s instead of sitting in an amphitheater under the stars in Dallas, Texas. Their chemistry sizzles on stage. The show is raunchier than I expected and I loved every moment of it.
Matt eats up his role and steals every scene he’s in. No surprise there. He’s phenomenal to watch on stage. But the real star of the show was the dog – yes, a real living, breathing dog! – in an Elizabethan collar. What a sight for sore eyes!
Do not miss Shakespeare in the Park. It’s going to be a new annual tradition of mine. Thank you to Matt for bringing this wonderful tradition to my attention. Go see him in Shakespeare in Love this summer and catch my friend Alle Mims in As You Like It also running this summer at Shakespeare Dallas!
Write me well,