Outside my window rain is pouring down and the thunder rumbling through the mountains brings to mind the tale of Rip Van Winkle and the giants bowling in the hills. It may be raining today but we are glad of it. It’s been clear, warm and sunny for over a week and our plants could use the type of long, slow, drink they are receiving today. Summer has begun in Asheville, North Carolina, and our Bed and Breakfast is filled with guests who have come to enjoy the many festivals, amazing food and wonderful outdoor activities of the surrounding area. And last night, James and I were fortunate enough to enjoy all three of these activities at the same time.
Earlier in the day we had stopped in town, and bought some over-the-top good goat milk Camembert from Goat Lady Dairy , some crusty bread from Dough (which makes amazing baguettes), a rotisserie chicken and some tabbouleh from Greenlife, and a bottle of rose wine for a picnic. We put out some hors d’oeurves and wine for our guests, left the inn in the capable hands of Sara, our assistant, and made the short walk over to the Hazel Robinson Amphitheater. Yes, you guessed it–we were going to the first summer production of the Montford Park Players, Shakespeare’s The Tempest. I can almost hear you thinking “Shakespeare again? Why does she keep going on about this? I’m not a fan of Shakespeare!” But I beg your indulgence and ask you to stick with me just a little longer.
It was a beautiful summer evening with the sun low in the sky and not too hot. When we arrived, the crew was busy putting finishing touches on the set. We found John Russell, Managing Director, setting up “Shakespeare’s Bar” and slipped him a check for our annual contribution to the Troupe. ( Did I mention that the performances are free? You can bring your own chair, sit on the grass, or rent one for $2. You can bring your own picnic or
purchase food and drinks from the concession. They do pass the hat during the intermission but the choice to donate or not is up to you.) John was instrumental in the conception and creation of the Montford Park Player’s Special which James and he cooked up for the Carolina Bed & Breakfast as well as the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association. When our guests opts to take part in the performance, John is there to welcome them and guide them through the process. His warm and gracious personality is as much a part of the evening as the show.
This evening was a special one. Ashleigh Millett, who has studied theater both here and in the UK, has teamed with the Players to offer a series of acting classes for young adultsages twelve to fifteen. The series culminates in a Shakespearean performance; in this case, they were performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (abridged) as a pre-show to the evening’s play. My friends know that I spent many years in Singapore working with teens in theater and have a deep love of the process and belief that the experience of working together on a show can be vastly rewarding so it’s no wonder that I made a point of being there to show my support. It was completely worth it. The kids clearly had worked hard and loved what they were doing and the audience support was strong!
The brief pre-show being over, James and I tucked into our picnic while the stage was set for The Tempest. From the minute Prospero (Jim Slautich) began to speak, I knew this production would be a special one. His deep and sonorous voice filled the amphitheater and his talent was evident from the beginning. As an English Major in College, I am embarrassed to admit that not only had I never seen The Tempest I also had not read it. I was coming to the performance with as little knowledge of the story as I imagine at least some of the audience but the acting was such that it was easy to understand and follow and it moved quickly with much humor and great staging.
There is something special about walking home at night after a performance outside. You may have felt it when leaving a firework display or a concert. As you get farther from the venue, the crowd thins and the evening closes around you. Home beckons down the round and there is a feeling of contentment from an evening well-spent. James and I both hope that you will consider devoting one of your evening in Asheville to the Montford Park Players and Shakespeare in the Park.
Montford Park Players 2013 Season: Outdoors at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre Fridays-Sundays May 9-September 14. Winter Season at the Asheville Masonic Temple October and December.