Friday, June 28, 2013

King Arthur and the Sword of Britain - Actors' Theatre of Columbus

A few weeks ago, after a long week of summer camp and Kenneth's long week of his Advanced Preventative Medicine rotation at school, we decided to catch a performance of King Arthur and the Sword of Britain by The Actors' Theatre in Schiller Park.  It was a relaxing break from a busy week!

This is the 32nd summer season for the Actors' Theatre of Columbus.  All performances are outdoors and FREE to the public.  This summer the performances are either at Schiller Park in German Village, the Columbus Commons in downtown Columbus or at the Easton Commons Town Square at Easton Town Center.  I list the specific shows, dates, times and locations further down in the post.

Kenneth and I found out about the annual summer performances in Schiller Park last summer, when we saw a card advertising the plays in the Winans Fine Chocolates & Coffees in German Village.  We saw Robin Hood and The Merchant of Venice last summer.  Both were excellent!  

I never enjoyed reading Shakespeare in high school because the way people spoke in the plays is so different from how we speak today, it made it hard for me to follow the plot.  Watching the actors act out The Merchant of Venice, hearing the inflection in their voices when they spoke the lines - it made all the difference!  I really felt like I understood and was able to appreciate Shakespeare's writing, whereas if I had dedicated myself to reading The Merchant of Venice, I doubt I would have reached the same level of understanding.  Robin Hood was also a fantastic performance - I love folklore and fairy tales so I was especially excited to see that play!  

The sense of community in the park during the summer performances is wonderful.  Individuals come, but I have seen mostly larger groups, families with young children, groups of friends and couples on a date.  Audience members usually arrive early, sometimes hours before the play begins, to have a picnic!  There is an area close to the stage that is reserved for blanket or ground seating, and in the back audience members may sit on chairs or blankets on the ground.  When it starts to get dark, the temperature drops pretty quickly, so it's best to bring a sweater or blanket.  There are a lot of local restaurants nearby (including Winans and Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams) and the Actors' Theater also sells beverages.  Being in a public park means that not all park visitors are there to catch the show, and may not always be quiet - but most people are respectful and use other areas of the park to recreate during the performance.

Schiller Park is a lovely park located in the southern portion of German Village.  It has a long history of being an important recreational area for local residents and is one of the oldest parks in Columbus, being purchased by the city in 1867.  Originally called Stewart's Grove and then City Park, the park was renamed in honor of the German poet, Friedrich von Schiller in 1891.  The Huntington Garden Promendade features quotes by Schiller.

During WWI, the park was renamed to Washington Park, due to anti-German sentiment in the US.  Eventually the name was changed back to Schiller Park, at the urging of local residents.  In the past Schiller Park has hosted a number of events, including a small zoo, the Ohio State fair, Oktoberfest and German singing festivals (known as saengerfests).  Today the park is the main performance site for the Actors' Theatre summer series, festivals and a recreation center.

I grew up reading fairytales and daydreaming about being in my own fairytale adventure as a kid.  I still enjoy reading fairytales like The Hobbit, The Lord of the RingsTreasure Island and How to Train Your Dragon and watching fairytale/fantasy themed television like Once Upon a Time and Merlin.  I also appreciate humorous takes on fantasy and legend, like Monty Python's The Holy Grail.  The Legends of King Arthur are stories I remember reading as a child and I was very excited to see King Arthur and the Sword of Britain.

I thought that the play was excellent!  It was written by Philip J. Hickman, who also wrote the play, Robin Hood, that Kenneth and I saw last summer.  The story was one that I was not familiar with, which made the play even more compelling because I didn't know what to expect.  I read in the program that this story about King Arthur is similar to tales told in the fifth and sixth centuries, which often featured epic adventures with fairytale creatures like demons, monsters and spirits.  

In the play King Arthur works with his knights, some old friends, some new, to stop a Saxon army from invading Britain.  Merlin and Guinevere, two characters most fans of the Arthurian legends know, feature strongly in this tale.  Arthur is also introduced to his famous sword, Excalibur.  

Overall I thought that the writing and acting was fantastic!  The characters and costumes were well done, especially that of Red Robin, played by CJ Chapmam!  My only critique would be that not all of the actors had microphones on them (or they weren't all working).  It seemed the actors with booming voices, who may have been able to perform without a mic, had one, and the handful of quieter actors went without and their performance suffered, simply because the audience members in the back could not hear all of their lines.

The photos that I took during the performance were taken using the 'hand-held night scene' setting on my Canon PowerShot ELPH 100HS.  Flash photography is not allowed during performances.  

2013 Actors' Theatre Summer Performances

The Comedy of Errors: Fridays through Sundays at 7:30pm from May 10 to May 19 at the Columbus Commons

King Arthur and the Sword of Britain: Thursdays through Sundays at 8:00pm from May 23 to June 23 at Schiller Park 

All the Great Books: every Thursday at 7:30pm from June 6 to July 25 (except July 4) at Easton Commons Town Square 

Twelfth Night:
Thursday, Thursdays through Sundays at 8:00pm from June 27 to July 28 at Schiller Park 

The Beaux Stratagem: Thursdays through Sundays at 8:00pm from August 1 to September 1 at Schiller Park 

Romeo and Juliet: Fridays through Sundays at 7:30pm from September 6 to September 15 at the Columbus Commons

You can follow the Actors' Theatre of Columbus on their website, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  They operate on donations, which can be made on the evening of performances.