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Romance, swordplay at St. Ed’s

Director Linda Thompson found all she needed for a performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” without ever booking an auditorium. She brought the romantic comedy to Saint Edward State Park’s historic orchard.

Who needs curtains, lights and theater seating when you have all the elements of enchantment right in the outdoors?

“It was nice to be in a special place like that with all those heirloom trees,” Thompson said. “There’s just a good feeling there.”

The Saint Edward Environmental Learning Center (SEELC) presented the show Aug. 20 and 21.

Around 70 people attended both events.

“It’s exactly what I wanted,” Thompson said. “Any more would have been uncomfortable, and any less would have been disappointing.”

Rain forced the second performance indoors to the park’s gymnasium, where organizers decorated the stage with flowers to give it a more natural feel.

The SEELC produced “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as part of its environmental-education program, which consists of 18 courses at Saint Edward State Park between March 26 and Oct. 11.

The classes teach participants about a range of topics, from climate change and species identification to orienteering.

Thompson, a Lake Washington School District teacher who used to lead the Eastlake High drama department, says she intended the play to merge nature with art, learning and community.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is also one of her favorite shows.

“I love the message of love and art and magic,” she said.

The play tells the story of two couples whose relationships become crossed by a mischievous fairy, who uses magic to tinker with their affections.

Jealousy and discontent nearly force the lovers into a fateful dual before the pixie king demands that order be restored.

The play features a natural world turned upside down, with ice melting and rivers beginning to overflow their banks.

It’s all due to a spat between the powers that be.

“I see it as an extended metaphor for what’s going on right now,” Thompson said. “We’re squabbling about silly things and not thinking about the natural world.”

Thompson produced the show on a relatively small budget.

She borrowed costumes from the local junior-high and high-school drama programs, and enlisted children to hand color playbills during Kenmore’s Summer Concert Series at the park.

“Our whole thing is you want to waste as little as possible, so the paper served a dual purpose,” Thompson said. “It worked for fliers and entertained the kids.”

Performers began rehearsing for the show in late June, practicing between three and four times a week.

Thompson brought in actors of all ages, including Audrey Greathouse of Inglemoor High, who played the mischievous fairy Puck.

“I was grateful to the SEELC for putting this on,” Greathouse said. “It gave a lot of us an opportunity to perform in front of an audience.”

The actors, some of whom had limited experience, relied on execution alone to make the show a success.

“We didn’t have any gimmicks to help create the magic,” Thompson said “All we had were the words.

“It’s amazing that we did it the way Shakespeare did it. I’m proud of the actors for that.”

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