The Green Show: A Free Shakespeare in the Park Tradition

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

A tradition of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is the Green Show. 30 minutes before every Free Shakespeare in the Park production, the intern company performs an original 15-minute educational play which outlines the history of the show and provides a quick synopsis of the story.


Dewdrop (Gina White), Thorn (Abigail Milnor-Sweetser), and Mulberry (Colleen Scallen) discuss the history and plot of the play. Photo by Jay Yamada. Set by Neal Ormond. Costumes by Hyun Sook Kim. Masks by Kendra Johnson.

Interestingly, the Green Show echoes the prologues that were seen in some of Shakespeare’s plays. One of his most famous prologues appears in Romeo and Juliet. A prologue actually appears in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well. When the mechanicals perform Pyramus and Thisbe at the Duke Theseus’ wedding, Peter Quince steps forward to give a prologue. His prologue has 2 functions. First, he makes an appeal for the audience’s sympathy; he asks the audience to forgive them if they are offensive. Second, Quince provides a summary of the plot.

The presence of a prologue was fairly common in Elizabethan theatre. They usually served, as in the case of Quince’s prologue, to ask pardon from the audience members, provide themes for the play, and give historical context. Prologues were typically performed by a single actor dressed in black, providing a stark contrast to the other, more elaborately dressed, actors. Continue reading

“Two seeming bodies, but one heart”: The Relationship between Helena and Hermia

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

Recently, the Folger Shakespeare Library published a blog post titled “Six things to look for when you watch ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.” For the blog post, I submitted a paragraph of my own thoughts on one aspect of the play that I think is important to look out for. Below is an expanded and more in-depth version of that paragraph. The full blog post is linked at the bottom.

I have always been fascinated by the connection between Helena and Hermia. In a play about love and relationships, I think that the friendship and sisterhood between Hermia and Helena is often overlooked. Textually, their relationship quickly evolves from that of two close childhood friends to bitter enemies. How the actors and the director chose to portray this relationship and rationalize why it so quickly falls apart can be incredibly exciting and interesting. Continue reading

Bringing a Magical Forest to Life


By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern


1. The start of the process


Oberon (Stephen Muterspaugh) describes the magic flower to Robin Goodfellow, the Puck (James Lewis).

The decision to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream was made in September, 2017, nearly a year before the first performance. San Francisco Shakespeare’s artistic director and the director for this play, Rebecca J. Ennals, wanted to create a production that was accessible for people from all ages and all levels of Shakespeare experience:

“I’m going to really try and make this a production that people who are seeing Midsummer for the first time can see and totally get. It’s not going to be too clever for them. It’s not going to be too concept-y for them. It’s going to be the play that they might imagine if they were to pick up the play and read it.”


Embracing the magic and the fairy world of the show was also important for her. This magical world tends to attract children, creating a more family-friendly show.

“What are the fairies and what is their magic? How are they all around us? One of my favorite moments in the production is when the lovers are fighting and then these little fairies are hanging out watching them and there’s a lot of them, not just Puck and Oberon, but there’s a bunch of other fairies watching too and it’s just the idea that these little invisible beings might be places and as a kid I loved that idea.”

After the decision was made, the next step was to find designers and to cast actors.  

2. The design

What would a show be without the magnificent set, costumes, sound, lights, props, and masks brought to us by our designers? Our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream features a spinning set, nearly 20 different masks, elaborate costumes, original music, and dazzling lights.

In our show, every single fairy and Bottom, when he turns into a donkey, wears a mask designed and created by Kendra Johnson. Some of these masks were created using molds in order to ensure a better fit. Below are the creation processes for two of the masks in the production.


The mask design process for the character Robin Goodfellow, the Puck, played by James Lewis. Photos courtesy of Kendra Johnson and Jay Yamada.


The mask design process for the character Nick Bottom, played by Michael Ray Wisely. Photos courtesy of Kendra Johnson and Jay Yamada.


Costumes are also important in forming a character. These are four of the many costumes you can see in our show. All of them are designed by Hyun Sook Kim.

Costume fittings

1. Livia Gomes Demarchi as Hippolyta, the Duchess of Athens. 2. Julie Douglas as Snug the Joiner. 3. Caitlin McNeilage as Mulberry, a fairy. 4. Sean Garahan as Francis Flute playing Thisbe. Photos courtesy of Jisaela Tenney and Kira Wotherspoon.

3. The Rehearsal Process

The rehearsal process for this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream lasted approximately 4 weeks. During that time our actors read and worked through Shakespeare’s language, staged their movements, learned the music, practice fight choreography and more. It is during this time that an actor is able to shape their character and better understand how their character operates in the world of the play. The following are a few quotes from our actors on what it’s been like to work on the show:



Amelia Adams (our mask and movement specialist) and Abigail Milnor-Sweetser (who plays Thorn, a fairy) practice an acrobatic lift.

Akaina Ghosh (Lysander and Bluebell): I would say the biggest challenge for me in this production is re-orienting my mind around the character of Lysander because I’ve traditionally thought of Lysander as a male character and this production specifically is making Lysander a non-binary character which is so exciting for me as a non-binary performer but that means that I have to really look at this character in a new light… I get to completely rediscover what Lysander is in this particular production.


Sean Garahan (Francis Flute and Mustardseed): I think the biggest challenge for me has been the physicality of the fairies, the world that the fairies live in and making specific choices, choices that I can replicate every show.

Colleen Scallen (Attendant and Mulberry): I love how malleable and open to interpretation it is and I just love the magic and the mystique of it and I think those feed off of each other. What is magic? Magic is something that you can find in anything.

Ed Berkeley (Demetrius): The biggest challenge. There’s a lot of blocking. It’s not necessarily strictly choreographed but there’s so much going on and so much movement so adjusting to everything and remembering everything and going with the momentum. Once the play starts going it’s just fast paced.

4. Tech Week

After months of planning, building, creating, and rehearsing, it’s time to put it all together. During this week, we finally head out to the park where Neal Ormond, our set designer, has assembled the stage. At the park, we’re able to add in the lighting design, work with the microphones, speakers, and recorded sound, rehearse in full costume, and finally perform on the set.



5. Opening night

Finally, the show is ready to be shared with our audience! Here is some advice from our director, Rebecca Ennals on how to watch the production:

“I would say be childlike in your approach to this production. Just keep this wonderful open mind and relax. If you don’t understand a word, it’s fine. Shakespeare’s audience didn’t understand everything either; he was coining so many words and phrases and making new stuff up all the time so they were just living in a time in a culture where newness, renaissance was going on all the time and so I think they had a different take on the world around things like language and art.”

Designers and Photographers:

Mask Designer – Kendra Johnson

Costume Designer – Hyun Sook Kim

Set Designer – Neal Ormond

Lighting Designer – John Bernard

Photography courtesy of Kendra Johnson, Kalina Ko, Jisaela Tenney, Kira Wotherspoon, and Jay Yamada.


bag cutlery equipment food
Photo by Pixabay on

See this? You do not have to be this fancy when you bring food to the park for a show.

Since this is our 36th year of existence, we know a thing or two about picnic food. In some of our venues, we do evening shows; in other venues, we do afternoon matinees. That means we’ve seen the best of lunch and dinner (in venues both hot and chilly!). This year, we really want to know what you bring to the park so please share it with us by taking a picture and using the #SFShakesDream hashtag!

Over the summer, we’re certain that our audiences will offer you plenty of inspiration for what to bring to munch on. And here are a few inspirations of our own:

This Buzzfeed article lists 23 great picnic foods that are fairly easy but look pretty fancy to us. If you’ve got the time, Saveur offers these picnic foods which may require a few extra steps for prep. But who are we kidding? Some of us will just make a mad dash through the nearest grocery store on our way to the park. In that case, the kind folks at Epicurious have these wonderful suggestions on just what to grab.

Of course, it can all depend on the size of your group and who is in it. For that reason, Parent Map offers Picnics 101 on cheap and easy family outings. (It’s terrific. Even a card-carrying grownup can benefit.) And this blog for families also has great tips, particularly if you’re heading to the park early that day.

For big groups, and if you like to like to cook to impress, take a gander at these 27 ideas on this blog or these 30 ideas from the good people at Midwest Living (no cooking required!). And here’s some great stuff that is NOT sandwiches!

Whether you’re a pro at this or a first timer, here are some quick reminders about enjoying a picnic in the park:

  1. Feel free to bring blankets and chairs. In most of our venues, there’s a designated section for high chairs and low chairs, so bring whatever you find comfy.
  2. Don’t be afraid to bring foods you have to eat with a fork! No need to limit yourself to sandwiches and chips.
  3. Our concessions menu is cookies, candy, soft drinks and water.
  4. Each venue offers good access to trash cans and restrooms.
  5. If you’re doing a serious picnic, plan to come about an hour early. That means you can claim a good spot and eat in leisure before our Green Show begins at a half hour before showtime.

Shakespeare’s Language

FairyBy Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

The language Shakespeare used is complex and can be unfamiliar to modern audiences. 

Take, for example, these first lines of the character, Hippolyta:

“Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;

And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night

of our solemnities”

Those five lines are just a very descriptive way of saying “Four days will go by quickly and then we’ll get married at night!” Although very different from the way we speak today, the language used is also an integral part of the beauty of Shakespeare’s plays. Continue reading