Shakespeare performed in Muskingum Park

MARIETTA – Scattered on picnic blankets and lawn chairs, enjoying the cool summer air, local residents enjoyed a relatively new experience Friday evening – an open air performance of one of William Shakespeare’s earliest comedies in Muskingum Park.

Actors from near and far came together for an uproarious performance of “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” a quick-witted play centered on the plot that a studious king bans himself and his courtiers from seeing women just as the Princess of France arrives on official business.

The experience of watching an open air play was new to many in the audience.

“It’s our first-time outdoors. It’s very innovative,” said Peter Polites, who is a member of the Mid-Ohio Valley Players Theatre.

It was also a first for many of the actors.

Marietta resident Brandon Humphrey, 15, has been involved with local theater since he was 8. But performing in the Shakespeare on the River Festival has been unique.

“It’s just a new experience. It’s how the sound carries, and the atmosphere out here. It’s a totally new environment,” said Humphrey, who plays Moth, an energetic page whose garnered plenty of laughs from the audience Friday evening.

Many in the audience professed their admiration for Shakespeare.

“We thought we needed something to do, and it’s Shakespeare…sort of,” joked Texas resident Jessica Wood, 61, who was watching the play with a friend and her mother, a Marietta resident.

The play was actually adapted by director Geoffrey Coward to be significantly shorter than the original. Additionally, it featured original music from local musician Todd Burge.

Actor Morgan Massaro said the play held many novelties for her. Not only was it her first time acting outdoors, but the Shakespeare on the River Festival also represents the first time the Caldwell resident and Marietta College student has had the chance to perform one of the great bard’s works.

“Really, I’m loving the chance to act in Shakespeare, which I’ve never done before,” said Massaro, who plays a lady-in-waiting for the princess.

Marietta teens Michal McKitrick, Abby Litman, Aly Jones and Jonah Litman, sipped drinks on a picnic blanket as they waited for the play to begin.

“I love the humor of Shakespeare,” said McKitrick, 15. “He’s very punny.”

“Yes. The old-fashioned puns,” chimed in Jonah Litman, 18, whose father was portraying a school master that “looks like Sherlock Holmes.”

The play was so good it was worth a second watch, said McKitrick. She took in the first of seven scheduled performances Thursday night.

“I saw it (Thursday), but I wanted to see it again with my friends,” she said.

Future performances of the play are scheduled for 8 p.m. Sunday and July 17-20.