Memories of Summer Shakes

In middle of the action with Desiree Talbert, Becky Greer Clements, Missy Workman Soltau, and April Thornton Peters

In middle of the action with Desiree Talbert, Becky Greer Clements, Missy Workman Soltau, and April Thornton Peters

In 1995 Summer Shakespeare produced its first show, Love’s Labor’s Lost. Tickets were $1, and I was four months old. (Can we just take a minute to marvel at the fact that my parents started a theatre company with a newborn? And yes, when you start kids on Shakespeare that early, British spellings become second nature.)

Obviously I don’t remember much from that first summer, but over the last 21 years I’ve spent my summers exploring the forests of Arden, dancing with Midsummer sprites, and being perpetually embarrassed by my dad’s costumes (I’m still in therapy because of the Twelfth Night shorts of 2010!) In our family we remember dates by what play we did that summer. My brother Cole was born during The Importance of Being Earnest and I worked at camp in Hawaii during Love’s Labor’s Lost and Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Being a Summer Shakespeare kid means you do a little bit of everything. We’ve painted floors, shoveled rubber mulch, and sewed costumes. I’m in charge of making snacks for rehearsal (you can find my name in the program under “snack wench.”) Cole played the changeling child’s understudy in Midsummer Night’s Dream when the baby originally cast in the role wouldn’t go on. I actually cried of embarrassment after attempting to paint flowers on a prop suitcase for Two Gentlemen of Verona—needless to say, I did not get my dad’s artistic genes. We know how to run lights and sound (and by “we” I mean Cole) and we got our start in the business world ordering and selling cupcakes and bottled water. A little boy in the audience once asked his mom if he could get a cupcake from “Shakespeare’s daughter”—and I answered to it.

But the greatest lesson I’ve learned from Summer Shakespeare is something you’ll probably hear my dad say at the beginning of every show (if my mom remembers to write it on his cue card). “Laughter is the best medicine.” There’s nothing like seeing the smiles on faces of all ages after a show and knowing that the long hours of rehearsal and costume runs to Goodwill were all worth it. Because for an hour, our audiences experience “a brave new world,” and they end up loving it.

The most common comment I hear from people after shows is, “Your dad is hilarious. I bet you all just laugh all the time at home.” They’re absolutely right. While the rest of the world hits the beach, at our house summer means Shakespeare. And that’s just as we like it.

—Margaret Stegall

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2 Responses to “Memories of Summer Shakes”

  • Aimee Quattlebaum Says:

    What a brilliant blog post! Summer Shakespeare holds a special place in my heart because my children and I would see the productions when we came to Greenville each summer. Summers 2005 and 2006 were extra special… My daughter was in drama camp and my son was in day camp while I went to teacher seminars. Our lives had been changed by my cancer diagnosis and I was still on chemo… I whole heartedly agree that laughter is the best medicine because during the performances of Summer Shakes we were all transported to a magical land where we could laugh, dream and hope along with many merry (or melancholy) colorful characters. You helped bring magic into our lives!

    Summer Shakespeare continues to be a highlight for my family each summer! My family truly looks forward to each play. Personally, at each performance new memories are made but I can still see the faces of my children back in 2005 as they experienced awe and unabandend laughter. Those memories are priceless! Thank you for those memories, Summer Shakes. Thank you for the memories in the making, too.

  • Liz Rose Says:

    You may not have gotten your dad’s artistic genes but you obviously have your mom’s writing genes. Great post! By the way, I think my elder son also thinks of past summers in terms of what Summer Shakespeare production he saw that year.

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