I am weary of all the bad news in the world. I desperately want to wake up to NPR saying, “Peace and prosperity has returned to the land!” But that’s not the story they are telling me.

Finding myself despondent this morning, I turned to the Style page in the Washington Post. And proceeded to burst into tears. (Ok, maybe not “burst,” more like “drizzle.”) The Shakespeare Theatre Company is moving their annual summer “Free for All” out of Carter Baron amphitheatre. Instead, they will perform the free play inside their Chinatown theatre in September. I realize this is minor within the scope of the bad news out there in the world. But in these troubled times, I need happy traditions to continue.

It was bad enough when “The Awakening” statue moved to the suburbs. Now Shakespeare has to go inside?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

I’ve seen every show at The Shakespeare Theatre for the past 7 or so years as an usher or season ticketholder.  Each year, the annual Free for All reprises one of the prior plays for an outdoor production in Rock Creek park. The shows were always different in the park — they had some new staging and often different actors … but the whole quality of the atmosphere was new too. It was wonderful to go out on a warm June night, picnic, then walk through the woods for a little Shakespeare — often with a soft hum of cicadas in the background. I loved that families would come. Mothers would pace in the back, bouncing their babies. Little kids could go run around in the park when they got restless.

It was inviting and enchanting.

For instance, you may recall how much more I enjoyed Jeffrey Carlson’s Hamlet in the park last summer.  Something about his performance in that magical setting won me over.  I loved hearing his speeches outdoors under the excellent canopy of air and stars and trees:

“It goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire — why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours…”

Yeah, when Hamlet’s saying all of that, and you can look up at the majestic starlit sky with him … it really hits home that this man has it bad.

The annual “Free for All” will carry on indoors at the Harman Center for the Arts.  I am sure the productions will be great and have more technical precision, better climate control and be more convenient. I see why it is a good, practical decision for the theatre and their staff.  But “practical” has so little charm.  We get climate-controlled in our cubicles all day.

D.C. has so few magical annual events. I am sorry to lose this one.

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