presented on July 5th after
the Southampton Days Parade
Photos by Mike Lally
This is not a critical review of the performance of "Midsummer", rather it is an analysis of how the overall presentation at the stage went.
First, let me apologize to our audience for the fact that the food service vendor Fat Jack's did not show up. This is the second time that has happened with them and it will be the last. Not only did this disappoint the participants in the parade, who were intended to have a voucher to feed them after the parade, but also a number of people took the time and trouble to come back to the stage only to find that there was no food service and so they left. We lost at least half our audience because there was no food for them to picnic with. In addition, our presentation schedule was effected and a lot of money was spent promoting the event with their name on the flyers and in the papers. Thumbs down to Fat Jack's.
I will be working harder for us to secure the ability to provide this service using a dependable vendor . While I was working to gather sponsorship, other food services in Southampton have expressed a desire to participate in what we are doing. So, I will be designing a competitive program for the right to provide these services, one which will involve a written contract and a fee which will assure that the food service vendor shows up. Otherwise we will provide the food services ourselves.
We will also be certain to include vegetarian menu items, as a number of people do not choose to eat meat.
The performances at the stage were set for 1-5 pm and this rather arbitrary time reference was contingent upon the BBQ being available for people to picnic while sufficient audience gathered. Obviously without the food services, this plan faltered completely
The other factor, which I thought might occur, but was uncertain how severe it might be, was the intensity of the sun in the afternoon. It was brutally hot onstage. A few of the performers were quite unhappy about that. So this leads me to say that the performances during the summer months should take place no sooner than 4:00 pm. At this time of day the field is entirely in shade and the stage is in sunlight, but only for another half an hour to forty-five minutes and the sun is less intense.
Having the field in sunlight, few people chose to sit in the sun and so the audience ends up placed farther away from the stage, making it more difficult to hear and making the performance less intimate. So this is an issue that needs to be addressed.
As it turns out, I am the one who did the introductions onstage this time around. I don't think this is the best thing to be doing. I was exhausted from the parade and I tend to ramble on too long discussing issues of the developing programs and sponsorship. I think we need to have a very definite plan for the preludes to the shows, which eliminate too much talk on stage and we need an MC who is not me, especially if I am going to perform in the show.
I expect to be creating a manual which outlines the procedures we need to implement to set-up and operate performances in the Meadow Amphitheatre, because the details are too much for any one person to effectively manage. That will be published both here and in the hard copy of The Shakespearean Journal.
From this last show it has become clear that we need a sound person who can be certain to play the interlude music and assure that the levels are set and left unaltered. During this show, we had excellent interlude music, but it was not implemented, because it was on me to do it and I was simply too overwhelmed to make sure that it happened. It would have made for a more pleasant viewing experience if this music were used.
We also need a videographer to capture both the parade and the performances.
It is clear that the sound system cannot be backstage unless it is attended by a sound man. I think we will be creating the ability for the control booth to be behind the concession stand and we have determined that we will wire the stage and bury the speaker lines.
We also need a house manager who can tend to the concessions stand, making sure the information is out, is there to answer questions and can tend to the beverages and snacks we will provide. Also, details like the interlude music and tending to the audience's needs, as in blankets.
On that subject, I think we will rent blankets to people if they did not bring their own. We had talked about chairs, but blankets are easier.
If there is one thing that was blaring at me after briefly scanning the video-tape of the performance - it is that there was too much dead time onstage. The programs need to be presented in such a way as to keep the pace up and that means that we need to have a stage manager who can see to that.
The concept for "Spontaneous Shakespeare" was not implemented well. It is not possible to be so spontaneous when the audience is waiting to see the next bit. That means that we need to plan out the scenes which will be read and we need a director who can oversee the onstage activities with this program.
Our fencing demonstrations went well and we are very appreciative of the folks who came over. Our swordsman was 'Bran ap Rees and his son' They presented a fascinating demonstration of fencing techniques and showed how it works in competition. It was a wonderful addition to the program... Thank you Bran. I hope we can do more of this in the future.
Those folks who came over to the performances (and stayed) seemed to be very happy they did and were very enthusiastic about having this "Shakespeare in the Park" in the area. One comment, was that of surprise, that there was not a huge crowd there for this event. Another couple made the journey over from Morrisville just for the event. I couldn't help myself and I had to give the gentleman a hug for doing so. I think I surprised him, but I was so happy to hear that he came all the way over there just for our event.
There are things we need to do to make the experience more pleasant and more professional for the audience, but we took a casual approach to the staging and relating to the audience which seemed to work fine for the event.
Presenting this new Musical Opera in the park went well. It was the first try, so some things were not as together as they could have been, but overall it was pretty good. If we are to continue with the show and present the next installment, then the performance times will be at a cooler time of the day and closer to evening. We will refine out interludes between scenes so there is not dead space on the stage and we will need to fill-in with other planned scenes, music, or other form of entertainment. A later performance time will allow the audience to sit closer to the stage, which will help.
The sound in the Amphitheatre is pretty good and the performers did a bang-up job of conveying their art. I was backstage for much of it, so I was unable to properly analyze how it was conveyed to the audience.
Here's some thoughts from the composer/director;Folks, just wanted to thank you all for all your hard work and tell you all how well you did yesterday. Sorry we didn't have a few more folks to enjoy the experience - their loss, but for me, it was a total delight to sit back in that little green room (grove), and listen to you all.
Thanks again and best,
Documenting the Performance with Video;
The video camera battery died somewhere into the performance, but thankfully it captured the entire performance and died just as we were exiting the stage. I do know that I need to look at putting microphones in place, for the video cameras, and I have shotgun mics for that purpose. Of course, the issue is feedback from the PA if those mics are to be used for vocal support, but just for the video that would not be an issue.
All in all, I think we are on our way to developing a nice performance time slot after the parade. I do think that by making the performance later in the day, it will be easier on the performers, allow more time to prepare the presentation, and allow the parade goers to have more time to recover from a morning out in the sun. I do not think we have to worry too much about competing forces with the carnival because the folks who come by to see us are more inclined toward this type of entertainment. If we plan out event to coincide with folks leaving our show and going over to see the fireworks, then I think we will have hit on a good workable formula.
This being the first attempt to present on the Forth of July weekend, I think we all did an admirable job that everybody should be proud of. Thank you all. AG