Mission & Vision
Midsommer Flight produces high quality, accessible performances of Shakespeare’s plays in Chicago communities.
Its vision is to create Shared Joy: the shared experience of a laugh, a gasp, or a cathartic cry; of an event that brings people together in community. This connection is the joy. It has the power to remind us of our shared humanity. Our ordinary, extraordinary humanity. Our belonging.
The company achieves Shared Joy through Flights of Fancy: journeys through the imagination, which it takes through the plays of William Shakespeare.
But why? Shakespeare’s work is troublesome, to say the least. The text is rife with sexism, racism, and misogyny. The centuries-old culture surrounding it has stigmatized BIPOC, disabled, gender-diverse, and body-diverse artists. What’s more, stories told by one white, male, Elizabethan playwright may not resonate with everyone in the same way, or at all—nor should we expect them to. Yet, the work still offers sweeping journeys, fiery emotions, flawed and relatable characters. If not universal, these plays do have the potential to hold, as ‘twere, the mirror up to a broad spectrum of nature. Midsommer Flight believes this work can be for anyone.
If so, it must be made accessible: available to anyone who wants to participate. Midsommer Flight fosters:
– Financial accessibility by offering all Free and Pay-What-You-Can productions;
– Aesthetic and cultural accessibility by hiring diverse artists to interpret these stories;
– Textual accessibility by working with actors to clarify the language for all audience members;
– Geographic accessibility by touring to different areas of the city;
– Physical accessibility by performing in public spaces;
Since inception, Midsommer Flight has envisioned local residents, families, Shakespeare lovers, and those new to his work all to come together to experience the excitement and adventure of Shakespeare’s gorgeous language and timeless stories.
Shared Joy. Flights of fancy.
Founded in 2012 by Chicago theatre artist Beth Wolf, Midsommer Flight presented its inaugural free production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in August 2012 as an Arts Partner with Touhy Park of the Chicago Park District. The following year, the company incorporated as an Illinois not-for-profit, receiving 501(c)(3) status in 2013. In the company’s name, “Midsommer” is spelled uniquely as it appears in Shakespeare’s First Folio, the original “Complete Works” published in 1623. Since inception, Midsommer Flight has reached 11,500 audience members.
Now, the company tours a new production to 4 parks each summer, most recently with The Tempest in 2019. The company has also presented Twelfth Night each year in December at the Lincoln Park Conservatory since 2015, now a Chicago holiday tradition. As an Arts Partner with Chicago Park District and a participant in the Mayor’s Night Out in the Parks initiative, the company reaches approximately 2,000 audience members each year.
Critics have raved unanimously about Midsommer Flight’s work. Most recently, in 2019 Kerry Reid on Dueling Critics called The Tempest, “a miracle,” while Aaron Lockman of Performink called it, “an hour and forty minutes of pure humor and heart … lovely and evocative stage pictures. … enthralling.” Rescripted raved, “Midsommer Flight revels in theatricality,” while Splash Magazine affirmed the company’s ability to create an imaginative world with minimal design: “it is not at all difficult to ‘see’ the shipwreck, the forest, the magical effects.” The 2019 production of Twelfth Night garnered similar raves; in Kerry Reid’s Chicago Reader Recommended review, she called it a “sweet, funny, and thoughtful production.” See more reviews and production photos of past work.
Music has also been a major facet of Midsommer Flight’s work. The company has produced multiple Original Cast Recordings featuring original music composed for its productions, beginning with Twelfth Night in 2015. This was quickly followed by As You Like It (2016) and Hamlet (2017), the latter of which includes recordings of both songs and monologues with underscoring. In 2018, the company produced a stand-alone album of 12 of Shakespeare’s sonnets set to original music called Fourteen Lines. All of this music is widely available on iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Music, Spotify, or wherever else you download music. In 2019, the company went back to cast recordings with music from The Tempest. In addition, in 2018-2019 the company produced Sommercast, a podcast where Shakespeare and Chicago meet.
In late 2019, Midsommer Flight launched Directors’ Flight, a new professional development initiative designed to promote, cultivate, and inspire classical directing talent in Chicago. The company has also offered Skills Proficiency Renewal (SPR) stage combat workshops to actor-combatants in partnership with an SAFD-certified teacher. Midsommer Flight is committed to nurturing Chicago artists, not only through productions but with training as well.
The company has received significant recognition for its work. After the inaugural production in 2012, the Chicago City Council adopted a resolution honoring Midsommer Flight “on their dedication to bringing the arts to underserved communities.” Critics have noticed the company’s impact too; in 2017 Performink wrote, “they truly lived up to their vision of quality and access.”
In 2019, Midsommer Flight was named a Finalist for the Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theatre Award for the third consecutive year, distinguishing itself for “demonstrat[ing] artistic excellence and fiscal responsibility” and “being on the verge of great growth.” This growth was temporarily interrupted in 2020 as Midsommer Flight cancelled all live programming due to COVID-19. However, the company has stayed connected with audiences via free video content on social media and a new virtual speaker series called Director Dialogues. In this time of reduced programming, the company has also devoted significant time to engaging in challenging and necessary conversations around inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility.
Midsommer Flight looks forward to returning to live performance as soon as it is safe to do so.
2019 | Coriolanus staged reading | The Tempest | Twelfth Night
2018 | Richard III staged reading | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Twelfth Night
2017 | Hamlet | Twelfth Night
2016 | As You Like It | Twelfth Night
2015 | Macbeth | Twelfth Night
2014 | Much Ado About Nothing
2013 | Romeo & Juliet
2012 | A Midsummer Night’s Dream