When the school year comes to a close and students start to disappear, the Ann Arbor art scene continues to thrive. From June to August the main Ann Arbor streets become crowded with live music, street performances, outdoor films and artwork. As mentioned in Wednesday’s paper, spectators from the Ann Arbor Summer Festival and the Ann Arbor Art Fair allow people from within the local community – as well as outside artists – to collaborate and experience the arts within a larger setting.
“All of these things bring a larger community together,” RC Prof. and the director of this summer’s Shakespeare in the Arb production Kate Mendeloff, said. This year’s choice, “The Tempest,” ended its run this past weekend.
For the past seven summers, Nichols Arboretum has transformed into a temporary setting for the best of Shakespeare. “Shakespeare in the Arb,” as the theater series is known, has become one of Ann Arbor’s foremost summer events. This past season, performances of “The Tempest” ran from late June to last weekend. During the span of these four months, University students and faculty, as well as Ann Arbor community members, came together to put on the classic story of sorcerer Prospero and daughter Miranda’s island tribulations.
“It is the perfect activity for recharging one’s creative batteries after the academic-year ends,” Social Work Prof. Rich Tolman said. Tolman played Alonso, the King of Naples.
Not only did the Arb lend the performance the mystical quality that many of Shakespeare’s plays possess, it also offered an appropriate backdrop for earlier productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “As You Like It.”
“It is the melding of the play in the environment that is the real challenge,” Mendeloff said.
Without a backstage, actors entered and exited between the Arb’s swooping trees and winding paths in order to give the play a certain degree of reality.
“One of my favorite moments during the June run was when a train passed by during the fifth act,” said Chris Harrison, a first-year graduate student in the School of Public Health who played Stephano. “Some of the royals froze, others unsheathed their swords, while the spirits began dancing and thrashing as if casting spells, or stirring up a tempest, if you will – it’s something that wouldn’t happen anywhere else.”
Throughout the four months, actors had the opportunity to switch roles, providing a new perspective from which to experience the depth of the play.
Although the event is sponsored by the Residential College, it’s not exclusive to the RC. Recruiting people from various academic areas was easier during the summer since students and faculty had more time for theater.
“I don’t think many things can top the magic of being outside in the Arb, working collaboratively with a group of talented students and professors, and the excitement of
performing for large and appreciative audiences,” Tolman said.