Unlike Any Other Midsummer
Updated: Aug 9
Having previously seen Not Another Midsummer at the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2022, Ashley and I were thrilled to hear they were remounting the interactive Shakespearean production at Thymele Arts this summer. Much like last summer, the show didn’t disappoint. With interactive moments that create bonds with the cast and a raucous performance atmosphere, Not Another Midsummer expertly uses its immersive nature to create a perfect environment to engage with Shakespearean farce.
When we checked in for the show, we received drink tickets and learned that the actors were having some difficulties getting tonight’s production started. Soon after, the troupe entered the space, and told us they’d need our help getting the production started -- including setting up the space and taking on some minor roles. Quickly, we found ourselves approached by actors who involved us in their stage and personal drama. Some people may have ended up latching onto specific characters more, but Ashley and I found ourselves moving between groups. We met the artistic director and several actors, even finding ourselves auditioning for a role in the show all of a sudden. Much of the personal drama mirrored the plot of the play itself, acting as a brief primer in the plot of the rest of the evening. It felt easy to move between groups and by the time the performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream started, I had a pretty good sense of who was in who in the show.
In this introductory sequence, the space of Thymele’s Joyce Hall, the interaction design, and the audience size worked well together to create a fluid experience of the show. This section felt the most markedly improved from the performance I attended last summer, though there could have been an amount of happenstance involved. It felt easy to engage in an interaction with a performer and then move onto the next one or follow the same person throughout, whereas I previously remembered having some difficulty feeling like I could fully engage with the actors in these moments of prelude. The space felt easier to navigate, with less rigid delineations between spots allowing us a better sense of everything going on in the room without pulling focus too much other than when it was desired.
Once the production of Midsummer itself began, we could feel the way that the chaotic connection fostered in the beginning of the piece created a sense of participation and investment in the Shakespearean performance itself. Encouraged by the actors directly addressing us throughout the piece, we felt free to vocally respond to the performance, play drinking games, and not treat the piece too preciously. It created an environment where, as an audience, we felt like we were fully rooting for the storytelling and the actors. In a way, it feels true to original performances of Shakespeare from his time, with little divide between actors and audience and talkback throughout the piece. Beyond the interaction, too, the actors were skilled performers at the Shakespearean text. The performance focused on clarity and comedy, with actors easily communicating the meanings of the text and finding clear ways to create the comedy. A Midsummer Night’s Dream felt like a good selection to make immersive in this way, too, given the somewhat simplistic nature of the characters’ desires, an open setting, and the ease to cut it down to a manageable length.
Notably, a few audience members get selected to play minor roles in the show -- including our illustrious Company Director Ashley. After our aforementioned fairy auditions, one of the actors approached her inviting her to join the cast as Mustardseed. Given the casual nature of the performance, she could watch everything from the audience and easily jump in for her chosen scenes. She also had a brief moment of having a side scene backstage, learning lines and getting a glimpse of the show behind the scenes. At several other moments throughout the show, including after the intermission of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, audience were recruited for roles like this, further creating the sense that we were making the show happen. It also gave those of us in the audience more incentive to root for the production’s success by seeing other audience members onstage.
This investment of the audience in the show and encouragement to participate as an audience member truly stand out as the largest strength of the show. The immersive set-up acts as an introduction to set up the world facts, create an initial investment, and establish a community between the actors and audience. I have few complaints about the show -- as someone who doesn’t drink, I wished for a more exciting mocktail option, but this truly feels like a minor complaint. And, on a similar note, while there’s an element of drinking game and alcohol to the performance, it doesn’t feel too forced, and you can definitely have a good time with or without it. I’d definitely recommend the show for those who want to see a farcical, Shakespearean comedy, and enjoy immersive performances.
-Sabrina Sonner, Latest Call Editor
Editor’s Notes: This review was written after receiving discounted tickets to see the show in July 2023. Not Another Midsummer runs on Monday nights through August 28th. More information including how to purchase tickets can be found at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/not-another-midsummer-tickets-669893739207 and you can use the code FOOLISHMORTAL for 25% off!