FSU/Asolo Conservatory to Present Shakespeare at Selby Gardens

March 27, 2017

Amber Lageman and Nolan Hennelly. Photo by John Revisky.

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training will close its 2016-17 season with William Shakespeare’s whimsical classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed outdoors on the grounds of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. The play opens Wednesday, April 12 and runs through the 29th. Tickets are available at www.asolorep.org.

Featuring the entire second-year graduate company of the Conservatory, A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells the classic Shakespearean tale of four young lovers, five rude mechanicals, and an army of fairies and spirits who cross paths one magical night in a forest outside Athens. The most beloved of Shakespeare’s plays, the story captures the essence of young—and not-so-young—love.

Directed by Jonathan Epstein, the production previews on Tuesday, April 11 at 8 p.m. with a special “Pay What You Can Performance,” offering tickets at whatever price patrons can afford when purchased the day of the performance, at a minimum of $3 per seat. The show officially opens the next night. Performances will run Tuesday through Saturday.

“There is no better match for A Midsummer Night’s Dream than the glorious Marie Selby Botanical Gardens,” says Greg Leaming, Director of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory. “And there is no better way to see Shakespeare than in this kind of charming outdoor setting. It’s a great educational opportunity for our students, a tremendous offering to the community of Sarasota, and a perfect way for two of this community’s finest organizations—Selby Gardens and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory—to collaborate.”

While this is his first time directing it, this is by no means Epstein’s first A Midsummer Night’s Dream, nor his first experience with outdoor theater. A seasoned Shakespeare actor, director and teacher, Epstein has performed in three previous productions of this timeless classic with Massachusetts’ Shakespeare & Company, two of which were outdoors. He has more than 25 years of experience working with the Company, as well as numerous roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and London’s West End.

“Most of the action in A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place ‘in the palace wood, a mile without the town,’” says Epstein. “So it’s really pleasing to be performing in Selby Gardens, in a place within the town but protected, precious, sacred and distinct.”

Amy Helms. Photo by John Revisky

The play will be performed behind Selby Gardens’ Payne Mansion against the stunning backdrop of the sun setting over Sarasota Bay. Seating is limited, and tickets are for general admission, with padded seats positioned on risers, providing a comfortable and excellent view for all ticket holders. Patrons will enter through the north gate, located in front of Payne Mansion, across the street from the first parking lot.

The gates, onsite box office and will call open at 7 p.m., one hour prior to the production’s 8 p.m. curtain. Concessions will be available for purchase courtesy of Michael’s On East. DEET-free bug spray will be provided at a station near the entrance to the performance space, and restrooms are available onsite. In the event that a performance is cancelled due to inclement weather, tickets can be exchanged for a different performance.

“We are honored to be host to this Shakespearean production and provide the region a unique cultural experience at the highest level,” says Jennifer O. Rominiecki, president and CEO of Selby Gardens. “It seems only natural that works inspired by nature should be performed in nature.”

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Tags: asolo, asolo rep, midsummer night's dream, outdoor theater, sarasota, selby gardens, shakespeare, theater