Theatre: Nashville Shakes Celebrates 30 Years with A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Centennial Park

By: Jim Reyland

It’s August, time to celebrate all the eighth-month milestones we hold so dear: This playwright; Nashville favorite, actress Rachel Agee; President Lyndon Johnson, and Saint Mother Teresa all have birthdays on the same August Monday. Then there’s Elvis leaving the building, Nixon resigning, Woodstock rocking upstate New York, and a few other less important happenings.  

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s annual summer production in Centennial Park is also in August, this year continuing their 30th anniversary season with Shakespeare’s classic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This magical play, directed by Jaclynn Jutting, explores the duality of love and asks, if we are in love, are we ever in control? I’m pretty sure that’s a big Elizabethan No, but do go and decide for yourself. The show runs August 9 through September 9 in Centennial Park and then plays an encore weekend at Academy Park Performing Arts Center in Franklin from September 13–16.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the perfect play to celebrate 30 years of Shakespeare in the Park. There is a lot of tension and anxiety in the world these days, and this is an event that brings everyone together to share a fun evening full of laughter and wonder.” -Artistic Director Denice Hicks

In true Nashville Shakes style, this production features an original score by Rollie Mains, played live by the composer and local musicians Natalie Bell, Jeff Rogers, and actor/musician Matthew Cruz Benenson. The cast and apprentice company members include another Nashville favorite, Tamiko Robinson Steele, playing both Titania, Queen of the Fairies, and Hippolyta. Also double-cast is Geoff Davin as Oberon and Theseus, and Artistic Director Denice Hicks will be playing both the mischievous Puck and Egeus. Plus, there will be little elves and fairies on stage this year!

Speaking of pixies and sprites, NSF will offer Elf and Fairy Camps each week of the show, and the 6- to12-year-olds who attend the camp will be performing alongside the pros. Blending the world of ancient Greece with an enchanting, twinkling fairy forest are set designer Paul Gatrell, lighting designer Anne Willingham, costume designer Colleen Garatoni, with dance choreography by Everett Tarleton.  

Director Jaclynn Jutting says, “Working on this play with Nashville Shakespeare Festival—loved by so many Nashvillians—has been a delight. Producing it in the heart of Nashville’s Centennial Park brings Shakespeare’s Athens, Greece, to the ‘Athens of the South’.”  

It all starts at 6 p.m. when food and drink vendors open, and thou hast by moonlight at their windows to purchase thine hot chicken. After dinner, Talking Shakespeare appears, along with nightly special-guest speakers at 6:30 as the pre-show entertainment begins. At 7:30 p.m., it’s time for the show. Enjoy. Don’t forget, the Franklin Time Schedule is one-half hour earlier with food and drink vendors and Talking Shakespeare at 5:30 p.m., pre-show entertainment at 6 p.m., and performances beginning at 7 p.m. Shows are Thursday–Sunday and Labor Day Monday.

Also this summer, the Festival will honor its original founding members from 1988 and celebrate those who are still critical to NSF today in a Founder’s Day Celebration on September 2.  

Tickets to A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Centennial Park are free, but a $10 donation is encouraged. VIP Royal Packages, including reserved seating, VIP parking, and a gourmet dinner by Bacon & Caviar are $75. Go to to purchase.

So, however you plan to celebrate August this year, consider adding a lawn chair, a cold beverage, and perhaps a midsummer night’s dream under the stars, enjoying the Nashville Shakes. 

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