Perspectives on Outdoor Theater: Melissa
“Dear GRSF” is a new series for our newsletters where staff and company members at Great River Shakespeare Festival answer your questions about the “whys” and “hows” of our company. To submit a question, click here.
Recently, a GRSF patron asked our leadership team, “Why don’t you perform outdoors?” Considering that many theaters may now be asked this question – and many may be trying to figure out how they can move outside in order to have socially-distant performances – we thought it an appropriate time to address this question. The answer is a lot bigger than you think, so we asked a few different people about it! Click the links at the bottom of the article to read other responses.
Answer by: Melissa Maxwell, GRSF Co-Associate Artistic Director
I have never understood the concept of camping. My philosophy being: life is rough enough. When I go on vacation, I want luxury! I have the same aversion to performing outdoors as I do to camping. So, I have spent my entire career avoiding it. I guess my aversion stems from my experiences as a patron. The few times I have attended outdoor theatre I have NOT enjoyed it. All of those uncontrollable elements that one must contend with—extremely sweltering heat; rain; mosquitoes, planes flying overhead, rank smelling porta-potties, etc.—competing with the production for my attention tend to leave a more lasting impression on me than the production itself (no matter how wonderful the performances). It leaves me wondering why on God’s green earth anyone wants to sit outside and suffer all that when they can sit in the comforts of a controlled environment in a comfy chair and simply enjoy a show?
Worse than attending outdoor theatre is performing it. The idea of suffering all of those those pesky discomforts under a heavy costume, lots of makeup and a wig, does not sound like an enjoyable walk in the park to me (pun intend). Take, for instance, Shakespeare in Love. The Queen’s costume was at minimum 10 pounds (and felt more like 20) and, because of the short quick change, I had to wear it OVER the maid’s costume. If I was in a flop sweat waltzing around backstage in that, I can’t imagine what it would be like having to do that outside.
The short of it is that I have never had enough love of theatre to want to go through all of that. However, my love for GRSF runs deep. So, I’m guessing that if it ever came to us having to perform outside, I would probably take one for the team and suit up—or, at the very least, strongly consider it!
Read other perspectives on this issue (click a name to read their response):