Puck in the “guerrilla” A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Puck in the “guerrilla” A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A group of UCLA acting students, who have been living communally in Berkeley for the summer, will stage a “guerrilla” performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream this weekend at the amphitheater in John Hinkel Park.

The group of 24 actors and crew are hoping to bring Shakespeare back to its roots by performing for free in an open-air setting.

“We’re doing the whole thing uncut, which is not done very much any more,” said Sam Gibbs, the director. “Our goal is to get Shakespeare out to the people.”

The group, which calls itself The Free Theatre, also aspires to be as democratic as possible, said Gibbs. Any member of the ensemble who comes to a rehearsal is invited to give feedback and suggestions.

“They can help shape the show,” said Gibbs. “It’s a communal decision making process.”

Parts of the play will be set in “a surrealistic version of the modern Bay Area,” said Gibbs. The part in the forest will be set in the “subconscious of the Bay Area.”

To get audiences in the mood for Shakespeare’s play about the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta, the cast will serve dinner at 6:30 pm, immediately before the 7 pm opening. “It’s not so much of a ‘nutritious’ dinner but an atmospheric dinner, to develop the world of Athens,”  said Gibbs.

The group is mostly made up of current and former students in the UCLA acting program, although there are actors from different programs as well. The group started rehearsing A Midsummer’s Night Dream two months ago in LA, said Gibbs. About three-quarters of the group moved into a house on Grant Street at the start of the summer. To stir up interest in the play, the actors dressed up in costumes and strolled down Shattuck Avenue last Saturday, handing out flyers about the performance.

The play will be performed tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at 7 pm at John Hinkel Park. (Dinner is a half hour earlier.) On Wednesday, July 28, the play will be performed at 7:30 pm at the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland. It will return to John Hinkel Theater on Thursday, July 29 and Saturday July 31.

The group is looking for a place to stage a sunrise performance on July 30

The park was built on land donated to Berkeley in 1918 by John Hinkel, a local capitalist and philanthropist who lived on Channing Way.

For more information, visit The Free Theatre’s Facebook page.

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman...