Band of Toughs moves into the forest with A Midsummer Night's Dream

Boulder's experimental, "collaboratory" Band of Toughs isn't out of the woods. In fact, the theater troupe's production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, part of the Boulder Fringe Festival, will place the play smack in the woods, in the mischievous fairy-forest the playwright envisioned.

Performances will run Friday, August 17 through Saturday, August 25 in Boulder's Eben G. Fine Park.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream will be the Band of Toughs's first foray into Shakespeare, which is its own particular challenge, admits Cynthia Ward, one of the company's founding members. "It is different," she says. "It has been a treat because of the language. It's required a kind of text analysis." Still, she notes that the production will retain the company's personality: "We do a lot of work with creative imagery. We do some kind of fun pop elements like we do in our other shows."

And given Boulder's landscape and this summer's weather, the Toughs would be crazy not to bring Midsummer out of the playhouse. "There's a grand scale of landscape around us," says Ward, "so it will be more thrilling imagery than if we were inside."

Being outside also freed up the performers to experiment with space. "One thing that it allows us to do is to actually change locations when the location changes in the play," Ward continues. "So, rather than changing a set piece and asking the audience to suspend their disbelief, we ask the audience to get up and walk to another place. It's a crucial part of the magic of the piece, so it's been great to get out into the wilderness a little more."

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a favorite with theater groups, since Shakespeare's story offers vast creative possibilities. It contains about two dozen characters and numerous subplots that diverge and intersect: love -- requited and not, a wedding, a play-within-a-play, love potions and silly spells, mistaken identity, quarreling couples. And most of it is set in the woods lit by moonlight.

Fairy mischief aside, the woodsy setting presents a few logistical challenges, like lighting and weather. For lights, Ward says, "We've got battery packs out there, and they have to be charged up and there's a certain number of hours and a certain number of watts -- there's a lot of mathematics." Weather is a bit harder to prepare for, but the Toughs encourage umbrellas, jackets and closed-toed shoes; in case a show does get rained out, they will be honoring tickets at other performances.

Ward, along with the rest of the Toughs, hopes to bring audiences "an experience of delight and madness... This is so much about an escape from reality, and I would hope that the audience would get to experience that in outdoor settings, to have that experience of being transported out of the everyday. I think we hope that they really see that experience as the best of both worlds -- the beauty of the outdoor setting in Boulder and the enjoyment of a play."

In addition to weather gear, Toughs are recommending that audience members bring water and a chair or blanket to sit on, and that they allow a little extra time for travel. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, and tickets are 2-for-1 on August 17, opening night; shows start at 7:30 p.m. For more information about this and other Band of Toughs productions, go to, and to purchase tickets online in advance, go to

Want to know more? Check out this video trailer produced by the Toughs:

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Shaughnessy Speirs