, Newburyport, MA

August 29, 2013

A labor of love

Theater brings 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' to waterfront

By Ann Reily
Features Editor

---- — Visitors to Newburyport on Labor Day afternoon will bear witness to a wedding set on the picturesque waterfront.

But this is no ordinary marriage, as the bride and groom are a duke and queen and the guest list includes scheming fairies and a man with a donkey’s head.

It’s all part of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which the Brown Box Theatre Project is bringing to Market Landing Park as part of its free Shakespeare at the Beach tour.

The play, which starts at 2 p.m. Monday, marks Brown Box’s first visit to Newburyport, part of the nonprofit theater’s goal to take its shows to the hometowns of its company members.

Newburyport native Jeff Marcus is playing Bottom, a role he first portrayed 14 years ago at Newburyport High School.

“It’s just a terribly fun character to play,” Marcus said. “It was amazing how much I learned that came out again.”

Bottom is one of the mechanicals, the “blue-collar workers of Athens,” who decide to put on a play for the wedding, despite the fact that they have no acting experience.

“They don’t spend their time reading or doing anything of artistic prowess,” Marcus said.

When one of the fairies, Puck, happens upon Bottom during the mechanicals’ rehearsal, he transforms his head into that of a donkey. Another fairy, Titania, spots Bottom and falls in love with him due to a spell ordered by her husband.

“There’s a lot going on,” said Kyler Taustin, artistic director and founder of Brown Box. “It’s so much of an ensemble cast. It requires every person to make the chaos.”

Part of that chaos includes three pools onstage, putting those in the front row in the “splash zone.”

“That’s one of the fun elements to it,” Taustin said. “It’s perfect for audiences of all ages.”

He hopes that families will bring beach chairs and blankets, set up picnics, and really “make a day of it” in Newburyport.

This will be the third production that Taustin and Marcus, who both live in Boston and graduated from Emerson College, have collaborated on. Marcus appeared in last year’s Shakespeare production, “Romeo and Juliet,” as well as “No Soy Lo Que Soy,” an interpretation of “Othello” presented earlier this summer in Mexico.

“It’s been a great partnership,” Taustin said. “Jeff took on an administrative cap when we decided to expand to Newburyport.”

With help from the Firehouse Center for the Arts and the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, they made it happen, finalizing the details just two weeks ago.

“We’re all really excited to bring it here,” Taustin said.

“And hopefully keep it here,” Marcus added.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” heads to Newburyport after several performances in Boston, including three last week at Boston Children’s Museum and five this weekend at Carson Beach, Still Harbor and Marine Park. It will then travel to Taustin’s home state of Maryland and wrap up its run in Delaware.

Everything for the show, including the actors, “fits in four cars and a horse trailer,” Taustin said.

If you go

What: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

When: Monday at 2 p.m. Show is 1 hour, 35 minutes, with no intermission, and will take place rain or shine.

Where: Market Landing Park, Newburyport

How much: Free

More information: