What Does Harold Prince, Bicycles, and Camping Out Have In Common?

Midsummer Night's Dream

College days usually mean studying, fun, and adventurous frat parties. Those of us studying theater at the Art Conservatory at Purchase College had plenty of fun and adventure along with our studies– but not in the conventional college manner.

It was an exciting time going to the elite theater school with many talented people- folks who are now extremely well known for their performances on stage, in the movies, and on TV. Back then, nobody was famous; we were all just following the direction of our mentors and teachers. We were fortunate to work with many well-known guest directors. One of the most noted was the famed and highly regarded Harold “Hal” Prince.

I don’t know if it was because we were at school -which could be the perfect place for Hal Prince to experiment- or if Purchase secured him by letting him do as he wished.  Whatever the reason, Hal decided that his version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” would be performed not inside but outside. The backdrop of the trees and meadow behind the campus’s administration building would serve as its set. To add to the interest, he wanted all of the actors to perform on bicycles.

The actors had a blast, and it was wonderful working outside on a beautiful day instead of in the bowels of the theater’s sub-basement.  As one working backstage, I was exposed to a different but also interesting comedy.  Usually, for indoor performances, we would protect the set by locking the theatre doors.  However, this could not be done for a set in the natural world, that set had to be babysat.  So, being one of the set and prop people, I had the extra job of babysitting the outdoor set.

In between performances during the day, we hung outside and enjoyed marshmallows.  At night, we took the bicycles into the administration building.  Huddled there, we were not protestors having a sit-in but campers keeping watch over stingray bicycles and other peddling wheeled bicycle sorts. Imagine us camping out with sleeping bags and marshmallows to guard the bicycles and other props.

Additionally, going to classes by day and keeping watch by night left us totally sleep deprived.  This made the play even more interesting as the actors depended on us to keep them balanced on the bikes while waiting to go on stage. Plus, we had to ride the bikes off the stage when the actors were done with them.  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” not only symbolized a dream utilizing odd props.  It became a comedy of errors as actors and set-workers alike struggled to remain -and help each other remain- stable on the bikes.

Of course, the show was a hit and not to be forgotten, if only because of the very interesting director Mr. Harold Prince and his funny entourage of students that seemed to “yes” him and follow him everywhere.

By the way, since that performance, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has included bicycles again.  Perhaps the most famous of these is the 1999 film directed by Michael Hoffman, which coincidentally features one of my Purchase classmates, Stanley Tucci, riding around on a bicycle as the fairy Puck. I wonder why Hal was never given a nod or thank you in the movie credits…

(image courtesy of Vlado/ freedigitalphotos.net)

About Carol Ruth Weber

Carol Ruth Weber has a single mission of dancing people towards results to achieve peace in their surroundings! After attaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater, Carol began her career as a Theatrical Costume and Set Designer. She then used her skills and knowledge to segue deeper within the world of creativity as an Interior Designer, Artist and Writer. Carol understands the anxieties of having to get the show ready for opening night and has honed her organizational talents, business knowledge and her view of laughter-as-the-best-medicine into services to assist others. Carol has worked as a contributing author for various venues including Examiner.com, CBS Local, and Care.com. She can be viewed starring in several eHow video series: Ideas for Home Decorating, Interior Decorating, Back to School: Dorm Life as well as the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate video series: Interior Decorating. Carol can be contacted at weberlifedesign.com

About Carol Ruth Weber

Carol Ruth Weber has a single mission of dancing people towards results to achieve peace in their surroundings! After attaining a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater, Carol began her career as a Theatrical Costume and Set Designer. She then used her skills and knowledge to segue deeper within the world of creativity as an Interior Designer, Artist and Writer. Carol understands the anxieties of having to get the show ready for opening night and has honed her organizational talents, business knowledge and her view of laughter-as-the-best-medicine into services to assist others. Carol has worked as a contributing author for various venues including Examiner.com, CBS Local, and Care.com. She can be viewed starring in several eHow video series: Ideas for Home Decorating, Interior Decorating, Back to School: Dorm Life as well as the San Francisco Chronicle's SFGate video series: Interior Decorating. Carol can be contacted at weberlifedesign.com

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