Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks

A Midsummer Night's Dream

July 18

August 17, 2014

Touring to neighborhood parks across the city
by William Shakespeare
directed and adapted by David H. Bell

An Actor’s Perspective

For one Edgewater-based actress, touring the city with Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks is A Midsummer Night’s Dream come true—and an opportunity to share the work of her favorite playwright with the masses.

Shakespeare once famously penned the words “all the world’s a stage,”—and this summer, that stage is your local park. Now in its third season, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks will dazzle crowds around the city with free performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an opportunity many of us groundlings (that’s Shakespeare-speak for audience members) might not otherwise be able to afford. “It’s all about giving back to the community,” says Tiffany Yvonne Cox, an actress who has been working with Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks since its inaugural year. “I love going to different neighborhoods and presenting Shakespeare to people who have never seen it before—and as an African American woman, it’s incredible to witness the expressions of joy and surprise when audience members see themselves and their own experiences in me.”

For the actress, who spends much of her time behind the camera for film and television, the chance to perform en plein air is also a refreshing change of pace. “When you film for TV, the camera is just inches from your face and large gestures just don’t work. A subtle eye twitch or raised eyebrow says everything,” says Cox. “On stage, it’s completely the opposite. There, my goal is to communicate to thousands of people, some of whom are seated very far away. It’s such a fun challenge!”

Never one to shy away from new experiences, Cox is currently adding to her repertoire with guitar and gymnastics lessons. “I want to be ready for the next role that comes my way, no matter what it entails,” she says. Her eclectic resume includes work on both film (look for her big-screen debut in The Glass House this August) and television sets (ever heard of a little show called Chicago Fire? How about Crisis?), and she also has pipes. In fact her band, the Sunshine Reggae Band, just won Best Calypso Artist at the Chicago Music Awards.

But no matter where her craft takes her, she keeps coming back to Night Out in the Parks. “It’s so much fun to see parts of the city I never knew existed,” she says, “and I love getting up close and personal with the audience. There’s nothing better than shaking their hands after a great show.” Last summer, a teenager who had never heard of Shakespeare happened to be at a park during one of Cox’s performances. “She stayed and watched the whole play, and even stuck around afterward to ask how she could get involved in acting. The next week, I saw her at a different show,” says Cox. At another performance, an ice cream vendor loved the business he was getting from the audience, so he decided to travel with the production. “We ended up chatting at one of the final performances, and he told me how much he enjoyed the show and how happy he was that he’d been able to grow his business,” she says. “Connecting with people is exactly why I do what I do, and it’s what Night Out in the Parks is all about.”

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