‘A great unicorn puzzle piece:’ PSiP presents ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Westinghouse Park


Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Tracey Turner, left, plays Hippolyta alongside Jalina McClarin who plays Theseus in PSiP’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Westinghouse Park in Homewood Saturday.

By Aoqin Yan, For The Pitt News

For cast and crew members of Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Park’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” clear skies during performances are a must.

Lauren Scheller-Wolf, PSiP’s stage manager, said her job during productions is to make sure everything runs smoothly during a performance. She said the outdoor performances can be challenging due to local fluctuating weather conditions. 

“It’s things that you wouldn’t have to worry about in a regular theater space,” Scheller-Wolf said. “If it rains, we have to make sure we’re prepared for that.” 

PSiP is running its 18th season of free Shakespeare plays this month, featuring the romantic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The performance will continue in parks across Pittsburgh on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons until Sept. 25. PSiP performed in Westinghouse Park in Homewood for the first time ever on Saturday. They also performed in Frick Park and Highland Park earlier this month.

The play centers on four Athenians who run away to the forest. A mischievous fairy, Puck, casts a spell to make two of the men fall in love with the same woman. Throughout the story, the four Athenians pursue each other while Puck plays tricks on them.

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Scheller-Wolf said presenting “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” outdoors makes the story even more fantastical because the environment matches the naturistic scene in the original play. As the crew moves from one park to another, she said she needs to consider the change in environment.

“Every single time we set up, it’s going to be a little different because the ground is different,” Scheller-Wolf said. “There are rocks, there are seed pods that are falling from the trees. So I think it is a really unique way of seeing Shakespeare.” 

Jennifer Tober, founder and artistic director of PSiP, said the crew has found Westinghouse an appealing performance space since 2007. She said the City denied Tober’s application to perform there multiple times because of the high crime rate in Homewood. 

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

“We’ve kind of had our eye on Westinghouse for a number of years,” Tober said. “It’s ideal because it’s right in Homewood, and there are not really that many cultural places there. And Westinghouse is a beautiful park.”

During Saturday’s performance, the crew experienced various disturbances such as people playing loud music and talking over the performing cast members.   

Tracey D. Turner, an actress who graduated from Carnegie Mellon University, played Titania in the show. She said she used to live in the nearby neighborhood and as a person of color, she felt sad that the audience did not reflect the neighborhood’s cultural diversity. 

“In the past, there was a lot of violence and crime. Now to me it has been gentrified to the point where I don’t even recognize it. So with that said, they’ve opened the park back up to functions,” Turner said. “And it’s sad on one hand, because I don’t see enough people that look like me in the audience. I don’t see enough people that look like me that live in the neighborhood anymore.”

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

According to Turner, audiences for each performance change with the neighborhood. This requires the actors to be highly adaptive.

“We’re going to find a totally different audience Friday night at the University of Pittsburgh — it’s going to be young, which means we will be totally different, which means we actually really created theater because it’s different,” Turner said.

Turner added the role of Titania meant a lot to her because she played the same character during her first year at CMU. 

“I actually played [Titania] freshman year at CMU. So many, many moons later, I get to play her again,” Turner said. “And having given birth to two girls, lived a little bit of life, traveled a lot, I think I brought a lot more to the role at this age than I did when I was much younger 30 years ago.”

Tober said the “well-drawn” characters are what makes “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” a remarkable play.

“It’s one of Shakespeare’s funniest comedies,” Tober said. “It has really richly drawn characters. They’re not one dimensional. They’re all really unique and complex.”

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

Kalee George, who played the tailor and fairy in the show, thinks the fact that the audience can easily relate to the themes in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” makes the play a classic. 

“It has such universal themes of the frivolity of love. And everybody knows what it’s like to be in love with someone, they’re not in love with you back,” George said. “And how love can make us do very silly and stupid things.”

Like all other plays from Shakespeare, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is filled with Early Modern English, which could be very challenging to speak. George said learning Shakespeare is like learning another language. 

After years of familiarizing herself with Shakespeare’s work since performing her first Shakespeare monologue, George said she takes care in the process of understanding a character.

Nate Yonamine | Staff Photographer

“[The challenging part] would be just figuring out how these characters fit together. Because everybody can come in with their own perception of who their character is,” George said. “But if it doesn’t quite blend with the rest of the group, you got to figure out a different way of doing that.” 

George also said it is essential for actors to match their roles and to fit with the group, and she was the perfect piece for both.

“You could be the perfect piece for a unicorn puzzle piece or like beautiful, glittery, colorful, but they’re making a puzzle of a seal. And so you just don’t quite fit in that puzzle. But you’re a great unicorn puzzle piece, you just got to find the one that you fit with,” George said. “And I think I fit well with this direct vision and with the other people in the cast.”