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updated: 7/16/2014 3:20 PM

Outdoor Shakespeare show geared toward all ages

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  • Dan McQuaid of Naperville, left, and Stefanie Nano of Chicago will play Nick Bottom and Titania, Fairy Queen, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Saturday, July 19, at Island Park in Geneva. Admission is free.

    Dan McQuaid of Naperville, left, and Stefanie Nano of Chicago will play Nick Bottom and Titania, Fairy Queen, in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Saturday, July 19, at Island Park in Geneva. Admission is free.
    Courtesy of Midsummer Theatre Troupe

By Gail Gaboda

What happens when fairies get involved in a complicated love triangle? Comedy and confusion result in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on Saturday, July 19, at Geneva's Shakespeare in the Park.

Admission is free; a $5 donation is suggested.

This fun, family-friendly event takes place in a Ravinia-like setting at Island Park, said Vic Portincaso, event founder and Geneva Cultural Arts Commissioner. Families, friends and neighbors gather with chairs, blankets and picnic baskets and visit before the show.

Seating begins at 5 p.m. The show begins at 6 p.m. with a performance by State Street Dance Studio dancers.

Performed by the Midsummer Theatre troupe, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" explores the complications of love and features three storylines: the adventures of two sets of star-crossed lovers, the fairy king and queen of the forest and the misadventures of a bumbling amateur theater group. When fairies cast magical spells, confusion ensues.

Comedy for all ages

While Shakespeare's vernacular may be challenging to some, actors emphasizes the hilarious angles in the Bard's comedies.

"It is the absolute best play for Shakespeare newbies because it is fast-paced and ridiculous," said Dan McQuaid, who plays bumbling Nick Bottom.

The play is condensed to 90 minutes and moves at a fast pace, a delightful means for introducing youngsters to Shakespeare, Portincaso said.

"It has to be funny because there are children there," said Toni Hix, theater troupe founder and artistic director. While adults are laughing at the double-entendre, the kids are "waiting for the funny guys."

As the play begins, actors will be clothed in black and white, and as the move to the forest, their clothing will become more colorful, said director Kristen Duerdoth. "Everyone needs a little color in their lives."

The ukulele inserts comic relief with a silly song -- McQuaid may break out in spontaneous serenade.

"You never know what Dan is going to come out singing, John Legend or Britney," Hix said.

"There is something about the sight of a large idiot plucking forlornly away at a small uke that just works," McQuaid joked.

Changing of the guard

This year also marks the departure of Hix, as she and her husband, Peter, plan a move to California. She hands the reigns over to Duerdoth, a member of the troupe since 2002 who also served under Hix as assistant director.

Hix founded the troupe in the early 2000s with performances on Clark Island in Batavia. As venues were added (they no longer perform in Batavia), they evolved into a mobile theater troupe, performing in Naperville, Geneva, Aurora and Wheaton. Actors load up their cars with costumes, props and tents and they set up show in these locations. The tents function not only as scenery but also as a backstage for the actors.

Peter Hix, of Hix Brothers Music in Batavia, provides a mobile sound system at the performances.

The nature of outdoor theater and being at the mercy of the weather can cause anxiety, but over the years, the theater troupe has endured. Hix recalls mishaps such as a sudden downpour at a play's end caused the leading lady's dress to bleed red dye over the stage. There have also been instances where actors become sick or injured at the last minute, yet the troupe rallies to create a quick fix -- whether it's shifting roles or the sick actor taking the stage despite illness.

Hix views the outcomes of these mishaps as successes. "They are harrowing memories, but the outcome was good. It's an amazing thing we do and pull it off."

As an actor under Hix, Duerdoth learned about taking the stage and opening up to the audience.

"It invites the audience in and makes them feel like they are part of the show," she said, noting Hix lets actors develop their characters and work the scene.

"I have acted in the Shakespeare shows for 13 years, so I have a pretty good handle on what our audiences want to see and what keeps them engaged," she added.

Enjoy the show

One does not really need to "get" Shakespeare to enjoy "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Duerdoth noted.

"It is a fun, rollicking romp with queens and kings and naughty fairies and star-crossed lovers and goofy characters -- 'The course of true love never did run smooth.'"

Themes are easy to follow. "We see that throughout the entire play," Duerdoth added. "Life is complicated and unpredictable. Love is part of life, therefore love is also complicated and unpredictable. What is one to do then? Wake up happy, make the most of every day, have fun and enjoy the ride!"

"I will not be wearing tights, so the audience has nothing to fear," McQuaid said.

The show is presented by the Geneva Cultural Arts Commission. For details, visit

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