American Players Theater is one of my favorite spots to be to experience a play. Close, only about an hour and a half away, Spring Green, Wisconsin is home to two national gems: Taliesen, Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and home, and APT, founded by a small set of dreamers determined to bring plays to the woods. For years, APT had only an outdoor theater tucked into a hillside and open to the elements. That meant the most wonderful things happened. Midsummer Night’s Dream after dark, when the stars shared space with whippoorwills and lightning bugs. The twinkly lights in the trees surrounding the top of the bowl were a lovely adjunct to Mother Nature’s offerings. Those included swooping bats. They did their part to keep the mosquito population at bay. Two students went with me for APT’s 10th anniversary, and 1000thperformance, celebration, where the company served up a selection of scenes from various Shakespeare plays. The balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet capped the set. Romeo professes his love to Juliet and sealed his promise on the moon. Juliet, leaning over the balcony, rapt in love, is dismayed. “Swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, who changes…” She turns and gestures at the full moon, the real full moon hanging just above the trees. Such magic! I wasn’t there, but a friend went to see King Lear, which contains a scene where the distraught king rails, calling out for storms and rains to pour down. At just that moment, a real thunderstorm broke overhead, thunder, lightning, rain, the whole thing. Who needs technical special effects when Mother Nature provides the real thing?
Going to APT is an Occasion. I bring an old lace tablecloth and my silver candlesticks, along with a bottle of wine, and the best picnic I can muster up. I’ve recruited a number of friends to partake in the fun with me. No caviar yet, but salads or sandwiches of the best variety. Desserts that would give the queen’s pastry chefs a run for their money. It turns out I’m not the only crazy one. Some bring champagne, many have nice tablecloths for the rustic picnic tables, a few have candles or flower arrangements. This too is outdoors, so we all pray for decent weather. Lunch over, we traipse up the hill, through the woods, to the theater, now fitted with comfortable seats and sometimes a sunshade for the actors. One learns very quickly never to order tickets on the right side of the bowl. It’s beastly hot in the sun all afternoon. Easy to spot the returning patrons. We’re all clustered over there, on the left, sporting sunhats that won’t get in anybody’s way and brandishing sunscreen for those parts of the body still unprotected, like knees and thighs. Once the performance is over, and the magic sifting away, we all head back down the hill to our cars. We pack everything away, and vow to return. Can’t wait until we can do that again. Sigh.