Shakespeare in the Arb at 10
romp A Midsummer Night's Dream. "Everybody does Midsummer, it's such a cliche," she explains. "But the reality is that it's a play about people transformed by nature, and that's what you hope the audience will be."
Mendeloff hadn't spent a lot of time in the 123-acre park, so at the first rehearsal "I said to the actors, 'go wherever you want to go, find a place to be as a Fairie.' They just ran all over. There was a man and woman picnicking down at the bottom of the Heathdale, and they got very upset when we started galloping around all over the place. Turned out they were workers for the Arb and were very upset because we were stepping on plants. So I learned very early that we had to respect the environment."
The first weekend was cold and rainy, and very few people came. "But it kind of worked," says Mendeloff, "because right in the first scene Titania and Oberon are fighting, and they talk about how the weather is screwed up because they can't make peace with each other. The audience was in ponchos, very soggy, very cold, but they felt like, 'Yes, indeed, that's very true.'"
Word of mouth soon spread. For the last performance, more than 300 people turned out, and Mendeloff was invited to bring the event back the following summer. It quickly became an institution, so popular that the audience is now capped at the first 150 people to show up so as to limit the number of people tromping through the Arb. (See 3 Thursday Events listing.)