September 9th, 2009

A report on The Dream in High Park

I won’t be doing a real review of the production of The Tempest at Dream in High Park this year. Not because it wasn’t wonderful (it was) but because it’s over, so it would be pretty pointless to offer a review of something you can’t ever go to.

Instead, I wanted to write a bit about the experience of going to the show. I have been a fan of the Dream since coming to TO, and seen most shows offered since (except for last year’s, which was a repeat of the production of *A Midsummer Night’s Dream* from the year prior–baffling since, like me, most Dream devotees like to go every year). It’s always a fine performance in a beautiful spot with an enthuiastic crowd, and this year was no exception.

I had never, however, attended so late in the season as the second-last performance, and the last non-“family focus” one. My viewing companion and I arrived close to 2 hours early, in typical RR can’t-be-too-careful manner, and were glad we did. We got a lovely spot in the tiered-earth amphitheatre (the only sore point of the night was the volunteer insisting on absolutely no photos because “it’s equity”, which I don’t know has much to do with pictures of the amphitheatre). But even at 6:15, those really good spots were dwindling in number.

So we put down the blanket (actually, my Urban Outfitters bedspread from first-year rez) and edged it with a moat of food. Because that’s what people do at Dream while waiting for the show to start–eat elaborate and enormous picnics, and eyeball everyone else’s picnics. For example, for years I’ve seen people drinking wine out of those little stemmed dixie cups, but when I looked it up on the website this year, I found that alcoholic beverages are forbidden…but sure enough the couple to our right and in front had those cuppies, and the people behind us had a pitcher of sangria…I guess it’s ok if there aren’t any obvious bottles?

The thing to do other than eat and picnic-watch was of course people-watch, because there were *so many* there. About 20 minutes before showtime, one of the site managers announced that we were at over 750 people and new arrivals were still…arriving (sentence fail). There were people all over the hillsides, almost into the trees, and in our row we were rather intimate with our neighbours.

It was extraordinary to see perhaps 800 people out on a Saturday night to watch Shakespeare. Especially since they were all ages and demographics, not the feared “all oldsters” crowds of some of the downtown theatres’ “big shows”. The folks to my left were my parents age, quoting Obama when asked if they had room to scoot down (“Can we do it? Yes we can!”) and eating out of an elegantly pack cooler. In front and to the left were an extremely young and conservatively dressed pair on a date, very pleased with themselves and each other. My companion pointed out that two rows ahead was a father playing patticake with a 3-year-old girl. Later, the father and the mother each took responsibility for slathering one half of the child’s limbs in bug spray.

Behind us was my favourite group, 20 people gathered to celebrate a birthday. They had more and better food than I’ve ever seen come out of backpacks (a wheel of brie!), were all in a narrow range of midtwenties but an assortment of sexual orientations, and spent their time discussing a) food, b) alcohol, c) the iron man race the birthday boy had recently run, d) one of the guests’ recent engagement to a man who lives in another city, e) what is the *Tempest* about, anyway?

I love that people in Toronto just know that the Dream is a good time, that it’s fun to watch Shakespeare there not only because you can eat and snog and play with your kids at the same time, but also because these are good lusty plays and CanStage presents them for everyone, not just theatre people.

The Dream is Pay What You Can, so no one should ever miss a show due to lack of funds. And the “recommended donation” is only $20 anyway–an incredible deal.

Sorry, this is still a rave about something you can’t see for another 10 months, after all. But really, mark it on your 2010 calandar!!

I’ll give you three guesses

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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