Free Will

7 Jul

A few months after moving to Missouri some friends took me to see Shakespeare in the Park. As a theatre person I didn’t know what to expect, but as a stranger in a new town, why not?

I was pleased to find that many of the actors (and the Stage Manager) were pros, members of the union I was, until a few months previous, working to be included in. The show was great, I loved how the lighting played so well with the setting sun and the tree that leans close to the stage. The whole thing was very well put together. I was in love with the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.

This is my 7th summer here in MO, and I think there has only been one of those summers that I have only gone once. The shows are excellent from the costumes, the acting, lights, sound, a show worth paying to see… and yet,


They would prefer you give a donation at the gate of course, if you don’t it’s ok. If you do, you get a show button and a sticker that says “I gave of my own free will.”

I have gone with many combinations of my friends, sharing a bag of kettle corn and hollering in the audience participation portion of the opening announcements. Now that my sister lives here she also loves going too, they always have ASL interpreted performances. (and of course she also now knows the proper times to holler during the intro)

But all this is just a part of what I love about this theatre company. It’s the atmosphere that makes it so delightful. People bring blankets and chairs, picnics and wine. They come early to get a good spot, hang out and snack. They maybe make friends with the person next to them. We are young and old, liberal and conservative, PHd’s and 1st graders. Some vacation on the french riviera and some would love to be able to take a vacation. Everyone, from the ladies who valet park while shopping with a platinum card to the family that can’t quite make ends meet are having this shared experience of art. We’ve laughed with Puck and cried with Juliet, agonized with Lady Macbeth and fought Cesar’s army.

Sure some folks pay for reserved chairs, but most people just come and stake out a spot. We all brave the elements and bugs. And of course when it comes down to it, we’re all equal citizens in the porta potty line.

So I raise a huzzah for the visionaries who wanted to do Shakespeare in the park 20 years ago, and have kept it free. For the 40,000 some people who come each year, we are grateful! You are one of the reasons Kansas City is a cool place to live.

If you haven’t gone yet, GO! keep art alive!


PS There are rules about taking pictures of the show. So I didn’t, but here is my little pile of Shakespeare necessities.


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