Rochester City Ballet dances again at the Highland Bowl Amphitheater in a Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rochester City Ballet dances again at the Highland Bowl Amphitheater in a Midsummer Night’s Dream

[5/26/21 The Highland Bowl Amphitheater on 1137 South Avenue in Highland Park. Christopher Collins as Puck, a servant-spirit, in the Rochester City Ballet’s dance adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. All photos by David Kramer]

On Wednesday afternoon, when bicycling near the Highland Bowl, I passed a sign I’d never seen before.

5/26/21 The Robinson Drive entrance to the The Highland Bowl Amphitheater.

I met Jessamyn Slon, Production Manager at Rochester City Ballet. After a virtual hiatus during the pandemic, Jessamyn is thrilled the company is finally performing live and in person. This weekend marks the return of RCB to the Bowl for the first time in about twenty years.


One of Jessamyn’s job is monitoring the weather, sometimes nervously. The Saturday and Sunday forecast — if not quite Midsummer-like — is for partly sunny skies and pleasant temperatures.

Greek theater masks, comedy and tragedy (left) Sunday 30 | Day 64° Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds; (right) Fri 28 | Night 45° A shower or two around the area in the evening, then partly cloudy overnight. Chance of rain 50%. (

However, Jessamyn frets that the drama gods might frown on opening night: chance of rain 50%.

Rochester City Ballet will make its triumphant and long-awaited return to Live-in Person performances by mounting a fully produced staging of Artistic Director Robert Gardner’s A Midsummer Night’sDream. This coming Memorial Day weekend, fall under the spell of a moonlit evening in Elizabethan England, filled with star-crossed lovers and delightfully comic characters.

In decades past, ballet and opera performances were a Highland Bowl staple  Democrat and Chronicle, 19 Jul 1942, Ballet Director at Highland Bowl Thelma Biracree, whose dancers will be featured Friday evening at Starlight Symphony in the Highland Bowl

From the classic mischief-maker Puck to the beautiful fairy Titania under a love spell gone wrong, it’s Shakespeare’s finest comedy told in dance and mime.

In decades past, ballet and opera performances were a Highland Bowl staple Democrat and Chronicle, 22 Jul 1956 OPEN AIR REHEARSAL — Paul Valjean, at left, and Mary Kay Ryan, John Bridges and Dorothy Daycock, right, will appear in Mercury Ballet performance at Highland Bowl Friday evening. Olive McCue in Ballet is being presented by Festival of the Arts series.

The company dancers along with students from the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance Education will bring this family-friendly adaptation of the delightful and fantastical Shakespearean classic to the Highland Bowl. Though our audience sizes will be restricted due to continued vigilance surrounding COVID-19, all four anticipated performances that weekend will be FREE community events.

In decades past, ballet and opera performances were a Highland Bowl staple Democrat and Chronicle, Jul 12, 1964 TAMING’S FUN! Petruchio (Robert J. Murray) “woos” Katharina (Karen Kay Kaufman) while her father, Baptista (James II. Poulliott) looks on, during dress rehearsal for this week’s Opera Under Stars’ “Taming of the Shrew.”

Performances will be May 28th at 6 pm, May 29th at 2pm and 6pm and May 30th at 2pm.  Even though these shows are free, reservations are required as each show has a limited capacity. Health screening and masks are required to enter.

In decades past, ballet and opera performances were a Highland Bowl staple Democrat and Chronicle, Jul 03, 1971 About 7,000 persons sat on chairs and grass last night in Highland Bowl, for ‘Opera Under the Stars’ opener.

The afternoon rehearsal.

Tech booth. Jessamyn Slon, Production Manager (standing left) with crew

(left) Drew Neary checking costume; (right) Dancers waiting to make entrance.

(left) Ryo Munakata as Oberon, King of the fairies. Puck is Oberon’s servant; (right) Fairies waiting in the wings

Thisbe’s wig. The rustic character Francis Flute plays Thisbe in “Pyramus and Thisbe,the play-within-the-play.

(left) Scenic lighting fixture with Ryo Munakata in background; (right) Ryo behind curtain.

Rustics performing “Pyramus and Thisbe,” the play-within-the-play.

The Midsummer Night’s moon. “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 [Theseus and Hippolyta] solemnities.” Hippolyta (Act 1 Scene 1, Line 7-11) According to CliffsNotes®:  “The moon is transformed in the course of a few lines into the image of fruitful union contained in the ‘silver bow,’ an implicit reference also to Cupid’s arrow, which draws lovers together.”

The Rustics, a group of amateur and mostly incompetent actors from around Athens, look to make names for themselves by having their production chosen among several acts as the courtly entertainment for the royal wedding party of Theseus and Hippolyta.

Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta’s spear. Hippolyta is betrothed to Theseus, the duke of Athens.

Puck refers to the Rustics as the “rude mechanicals.”

Thursday’s Dress Rehearsal

5/27/21 Costumes on

Theseus and Hippolyta

The fairies

The fairies exit

The Saturday afternoon performance

The tragic drama god shed its tears on Friday night, but the god of comedy brightened its eyes the next afternoon.

5/29/21 The players bow to enthusiastic cheers from the socially-distanced audience.

5/26/21 The Highland Bowl Amphitheater on 1137 South Avenue, see Quickly overcoming adversity at the Highland Bowl

More Shakespeare in the Bowl

Quickly overcoming adversity at the Highland Bowl


Goethe kehrt zum Leben zurück

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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