WHO: Ginessa (Mom), Delvin (Dad), Selah (2), Elias (3), Eden (6), Judah (8) and Simeon (10)
WHAT: Shakespeare in the Park: A Midsummer Night's Dream
WHEN/WHERE: Remaining dates: Friday, Sept. 7 – 9 at Centennial Park Bandshell (2500 West End Ave., Nashville); then Sept. 13 – 16 at Academy Park (112 Everbright Ave., Franklin) … it's a rain or shine event!
WHERE: Centennial Park, 2500 West End Ave., Nashville
For 30 years, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival has made its mark on the lives and hearts of our city's residents. On a recent Friday evening, my family and I had the opportunity to experience this cultural gem and its latest Shakespearean production, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
With all five of our children in tow (ages ranging from 2 – 10), my husband and I grabbed our park blankets, a few snacks and some bottled water as we headed to Nashville's Centennial Park. We usually reserve the end of our work/school week to do something together as a family, but this trip was outside of our usual Friday night football game or family movie night. I was excited about the opportunity to introduce my children to such an enriching and cultural experience!
BEFORE THE MAIN EVENT
Nestled in Centennial Park, against the backdrop of our city's exquisite Parthenon museum, is the Centennial Park Bandshell. Park signs make it easy to locate, and we were able to find parking in one of the many parking areas throughout the park. Additional parking for the Bandshell can also be located nearby on 25th Avenue.
We arrived a little after 7 p.m. Prior to our arrival, there was the vendor opening and "Shakespeare Talk" at 6 p.m. A pre-show performance (varies with each show) starts at 6:30 p.m. Since we knew our children already had a pretty lengthy school day, we chose to eat dinner at home as a family and arrive a little closer to the actual showtime of 7:30 p.m. It was perfect! We had just enough time to be greeted at the entrance, find a place to spread out our blankets, and get the children settled before the play started.
I love how there are different options for seating to accommodate any family. Those sitting closest to the stage like us were asked to sit on blankets in the grass. Directly behind us was an area for people who brought their own lawn chairs. Finally, behind them were plenty of metal bleachers for seating. The entire setting added to the magical quality of the play itself with glowing string lights and the warm summer night air.
KIDS IN THE CAST MAKE IT UNIQUE
A Midsummer Night's Dream is unique to this festival season in its inclusion of young children throughout the play who portray fairies and elves. That was definitely a plus for our crew, especially my older boys who were already questioning if this was a play for "grown-ups." I heard a few "oohs and aahs" as my children pointed to the different children sprinkled throughout the production arrayed in their beautiful costumes and fairy makeup.
Another aspect of the show that all of my children really seemed to enjoy was the interactive nature of the play itself. This production does a really good job in utilizing the bandshell space. At times the actors and actresses run through the aisles, physically interacting with the audience and definitely keeping us on our toes with its liveliness.
The play started promptly at 7:30 p.m. and carried on until intermission at 9:00pm. For my little toddlers, they did good to sit quietly (for the most part) while eating plenty of snacks. Although I know they were unable to follow along with the majority of the play itself, the lights, music and our company kept them entertained for the almost two hours that we were there.
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK: A RICH, IMPACTFUL EXPERIENCE
Right around intermission, our older children looked like they were at their limit, too. After a busy week and long school day, I'm sure many would think a Friday night Shakespearean play, where children would have to be quietly seated would be a stretch. However, I was surprisingly pleased (and my children were, too) with how engaging and fun this show is!
With the promise of concessions and the many food trucks surrounding the bandshell, once it was intermission we gathered up our belongings and made our way back to the entrance to treat our children to some "yummy" offerings before we headed home. The festival had a great selection of concession options at different price points that evening, everything from gourmet popsicles and Thai food to a small $5 bag of caramel Moosehead Kettlecorn (my kid's pick).
Although we didn't stay for the entire duration of the show, I felt like the time we were there was rich and impactful. In fact, on the ride home, some of my kids tried their hand at guessing the outcome of the play and doing their best to determine the fate of some of their favorite characters. I could tell that maybe at times the story's premise was a little difficult for them to follow, but they were still able to grasp many of the overarching themes of love, jealousy and power. This was a great way to introduce our kids to one of Shakespeare's timeless classics! We definitely hope to experience Nashville Shakespeare Festival again in the future and look forward to more engaging cultural and traditional experiences with our children in the months to come.
IF YOU GO
ADMISSION Free, but there is a suggested $10 donation. There is a "Royal Package" starting at $75 that includes premium seating and parking, plus a catered dinner.
HOURS Food and drink vendors begin at 6 p.m. along with "Talking Shakespeare." Pre-show entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m., and the main attraction is at 7:30 p.m.
PARKING Parking is free.
FOOD/BEVERAGE Bring your own or purchase concessions at the park. Various food trucks are on site with items $4 and up (cash and credit cards accepted).