‘Shakespeare in the Park’ comes to South Mississippi

“I really wanted to contribute our twist on Shakespeare and expose it to contemporary audiences that aren’t really used to it,” said Lind.
Friends of Arts, Culture and Education along with AJL Theatricals are bringing a classic show outside the walls of a theatre.
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 4:36 AM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - Live theatre in South Mississippi is making a slow comeback in the post-quarantine era. With some still concerned about vaccinations, distancing, and the coronavirus itself, two Coast organizations are helping to alleviate many of those concerns.

The Friends of Arts, Culture and Education, along with AJL Theatricals, are bringing a classic show outside of the walls of the theatre.

A Midsummer “Southern” Nights Dream will be a 90-minute version of the Shakespearean classic set to country music, and the cast will perform outdoors in a picnic-encouraged, family-friendly show.

Despite the fact that “Shakespeare in the Park” is a popular brand of theatre in larger cities, AJL Theatricals owner Aaron Lind says that South Mississippi is ready for this kind of entertainment, especially as theatre-goers brave the waters in our return to a maskless, guideline-free way of life without the worry of expensive tickets.

“I haven’t seen a lot of Shakespeare done down here on the Coast” said Lind. “I really wanted to contribute our twist on Shakespeare and expose it to contemporary audiences that aren’t really used to it. So, we wanted to make sure that it was free and accessible to everyone to come and enjoy, not have to pay any money. It’s been a hard year. So, we just want to entertain people with some new, creative, unique art.”

The all-star cast is performing an abridged version of the Shakespearean classic. Assistant Director Alyssa Brannan says that COVID-19 closures helped make it possible for the talent in the show to come together for two special performances.

“We have a killer cast. Let’s be honest, not a lot of shows have been going on lately because of COVID and restrictions,” Brannan said. “Now that the restrictions have been lifted, folks are eager to do shows. We’ve been to shows with all of these folks at any given point. It’s really hard to get them all in one show, though. Usually, we’re spread apart, being the stars in a bunch of different shows. To get all of the stars in one cast, we were very fortunate to come at the timing we did. We hope to keep this group together, but the likelihood is low.”

One of those cast members, Jasmine Johnson, says she’s been missing part of herself without theatre.

“It literally feels like I found my voice again,” said Johnson. “Not being able to do something that gives you life everyday, it feels like you’re being silenced in a way that you can’t really control. So, being able to be back on stage again, it’s revitalizing, invigorating... it’s indescribable honestly.”

This adapted, country music-infused show, is one that Johnson said shouldn’t be missed.

“I can’t wait, you know. Being outside in the picnic vibes, it’s going to be a good time. Everybody is going to enjoy themselves,” she said.

The show is free to the public and opens this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Beach Park in Pascagoula and will play again on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Marshall Park in Ocean Springs.

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