Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

4th Annual "Shakespeare in the Arb" Opens This Week

8. June 2004 • Matt Hollerbach
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In the spring of 2001, Residential College Drama instructor Kate Mendeloff set out to create a new type of theatre experience unique to the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor setting. With the world-famous Nichols Arboretum as the setting, Kate worked with a cast and crew of students and faculty to produce William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a mobile, landscape-oriented theatre piece.

Taking advantage of the Arb’s natural features, the audience saw the play unfold as they walked from scene to scene throughout prairies, valleys, and forestland. The play opened to massive critical praise, winning the Ann Arbor News’ annual “Best Comedy” award in 2001. She followed in 2002 with another production of Midsummer, using a mixture of original cast members and newcomers, allowing for a unique expansion on the previous year’s work. 2003 saw a production of another Shakespeare comedy, Much Ado About Nothing in the same style as the others.

This year, the play is Shakeaspeare’s over-the-top take on romantic comedies – As You Like It – following a banished Duke and a fleeing young nobleman into the forest with their company, and the ensuing romantic traipses. The performances start this week and run for three weekends until the end of June.

Some behind-the-scenes info on the show & my involvement…

Since its debut three years ago, the Arb Summer show has been seen by many involved to be an off-season project of the RC Players, a student group based in the Residential College which produces plays throughout the academic year. The RC Players exist along with Musket, the Rude Mechanicals, and Basement Arts as one of four prolific student-run theatre groups on campus. The RC Players trademark is its brand of quirky, ironic humour that grows out of the unique culture of the RC.

This year’s cast includes many RC Players regulars, along with many students involved in other campus theatre groups, several who are acting for their first time, and a few professors. Depending on which day you come, you can see two different sets of people in the cast – most parts have two performers who alternate, allowing for a greater number of people to be involved.

I have been a member of the RC Players since December of 2002, when I saw an audition notice on my way out of an Anti-War Action! meeting. Since then, I have worked on eight RC Players productions including this one, in which I play Orlando (double cast with RC Junior Max Berry).

The play can also be seen in the fall on the weekend during welcome week. Details TBA.

information from the official website:

* * *

The U-M Residential College and the Nichols Arboretum present:

by William Shakespeare

Thu-Sat, June 10-12
Thu-Sat, June 17-19
Thu-Sat, June 24-26
(rain dates Sun, June 13/20/17)

All performances at 6:30 pm

* * *

Because of the huge success of the Arbfest production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in both 2001 and 2002, and “Much Ado About Nothing” in 2003—- the tradition of Summer Theater continues!! This year, the production is Shakespeare’s As You Like It – it’s a story of love, confusion, brotherly strife, and getting back to nature. The play will move from the Prairie towards the East Valley, with major scenes along the way. Guests will see the Arboretum in an engaging, magical way with each evening’s performance.

Have fun at the performance by getting into the spirit of it all—bring a picnic dinner! Pincic before the performance in the Peony Garden, (you can then deposit your picnic items back in the car before going to the performance which starts at the Prairie). Pick up dessert to much along the way, we will have cookies for sale from Big City Bakery.

    * Please note alcohol is not allowed in the Arboretum
    * To keep the Arb environment clean, you will have to carry out what you have carried in
    * To aid in Arboretum fundraising we will have desserts from Big City Bakery for sale before the event; We will also have bottled water available for sale

Bring a blanket or folding lawn chairs for your comfort during each scene. We will be traversing the trails of the Arboretum, so wear comfortable shoes! If you or someone in your party requires special assistance please contact our office to reserve a spot for transportation.

If you would like to volunteer to be an usher at the event please write an email to arb (at) We need some ushers to be in costume as part of the cast, and some ushers in plain clothes. You will be required to attend a training session to be an usher. We also need volunteers to assist with ticket sales between 4:45 and 6:30 prior to a performance. Please contact arb (at) for more information.

Because of the popularity of this event, we will follow a few ‘rules’

    * Tickets are sold for that evening’s performance only
    * No reservations are accepted
    * No advance ticket sales
    * Friends of Nichols Arboretum, as a membership benefit, may obtain tickets in advance of that evening’s box office opening
    * The audience is limited to 150 guests at each performance; Once this number is reached, we will not be able to sell any more tickets for that evening’s performance. This means that even if people are still in line for tickets no more tickets will be sold; We will close the box office for that night once the 150 limit is reached
    * The maximum number of tickets sold to any individual is 6
    * If rain or severe weather causes us to cancel that night’s performance there will be no ticket sales

We ask all of our guests to be kind to the natural environment of the Arboretum. Please stay on the trails, and carry out and properly dispose of your trash.

  1. Believe it or not, I actually met my first college girlfriend at Shakespeare in the Arb during Welcome Week, freshman year. Actually, her and a group of her friends bumped into me and a group of mine en route, ended up hanging out, and never actually saw the show.

    We dated for about two months.

    So, I’d encourage all of you to go to this event—I would if I were still in Ann Arbor!
       —James Dickson    Jun. 8 '04 - 08:38AM    #