A Utah Theater Review by Ben Christensen
With temperatures dropping into the forties, summer is nearly over in Utah, but at Midvale Main Street Theatre midsummer is still going strong. I found the theater easily enough on Midvale Main Street (hence the name), which corresponds with Salt Lake’s 700 West. It’s a small, cozy theater with cushioned chairs set up at tables, dinner theater-style. As small as the theater is, it was sparsely filled last night, the opening night of the A-Muses production Be the Bard: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I hope the production finds a larger audience between now and its closing night on the 22nd, as it’s a unique take on a Shakespeare classic that is definitely worth seeing—and participating in.
Photos by Beth Bruner
See, the idea behind Be the Bard is that the audience not only watches the play, but actually gets to be part of it. Before the play started, Rusty Bringhurst (Egeus/Nick Bottom) explained that the cast was a little shorthanded, so they’d need our help. Then throughout the play, cast members pulled audience members onto the stage, sometimes not-so-willingly, to play various small parts. Participants received cues from the actors, delivered a line or two, then returned to the audience. This unique approach to theater adds an x-factor to the performance, forcing the actors to improvise depending on how audience participants play their parts. It’s a risk, as demonstrated when one audience participant shattered the fourth wall by declaring, “I don’t want to be up here,” but the actors rolled with the punches and gracefully moved participants on and off stage without interrupting the quick-paced flow of the play. I was particularly impressed by Bringhurst, Bryce Kamryn (Francis Flute), Travis Hyer (Thesus/Peaseblossom), and Julie Benedict (Hippolyta/Moth)’s playful interactions with audience members.