Shakespeare in the Arb came into existence in the summer of 2001, when Residential College Drama faculty member Kate Mendeloff was asked to direct an outdoor production as part of a three year Ford Motor Company grant for Arts in the Nichols Arboretum. She chose Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for its structure -- the characters were transformed by the power of the natural world. The production was such a popular success that Mendeloff remounted it the following summer, and “Shakespeare in the Arb” became an Ann Arbor tradition!
The unique experience of Shakespeare in the Arb comes from the environmental staging of the plays. There is no fixed stage; instead, the audience follows the action through different locations in the Arboretum. The staging takes advantage of the vistas and valleys, the special arrangements of the natural settings.
The wide open space of the Arb becomes a panoramic stage, creating a more realistic setting than if every scene was played out directly in front of you. As one critic commented, “The actors used the vastness of its Arb stage to full advantage, making entrances from behind trees, appearing over rises and vanishing into the woods.”
Every year, many UM students, alumni, and faculty members gather to act in Shakespeare in the Arb. The RC offers Spring term class credit to students who participate. The experience blends community, student, and professional-style participation in a theatrical production with the delicate ecology and beautiful environment of the Arb, providing dynamic educational value for participating students.
Auditions occur every April, with rehearsals starting in the Spring term. Performances occur over 3 weekends in June. For information about participation, please contact director Kate Mendeloff. .
To find information about this year's production of Shakespeare in the Arb, go to Matthei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum (MBGNA) , or like Shakespeare in the Arb on Facebook for updates on the production!