An Arabian Midsummer Night's Dream

Magic carpet ride

An Arabian Midsummer Night's Dream

A crew of patches is gathering to rehearse a play – a familiar scene from Shakespeare, but this month it's being played out in a whole new way and place. Tongue and Groove Theatre, in conjunction with Ararat Restaurant, is inaugurating a new outdoor performance space, Theatarat, with an hourlong, 19-person, belly-dancing, scimitar-wielding production of An Arabian Midsummer Night's Dream.

The show is directed by Tongue and Groove artistic director David Yeakle, who, after 11 years of renting playing space, is glad to find a theatrical home at Ararat. Given his interest in physical theatre, dance, mask, mime, and spectacle, Yeakle would be hard-pressed to find a better spot. Ararat's back-yard-turned-theatre comes bearing its own brand of magic. The stage is no mere stage. It is 180 degrees of entertainment possibility. There's a bower for Titania, a house for the Mechanicals, a platform for the sultan … the 60-foot acting space even allows room for an oasis, white sand, and a mirage or two.

The Chronicle chatted with Yeakle about the inspired endeavor. end storyAustin Chronicle: What's the story behind Theatarat?

David Yeakle: We built a small stage at Ararat last September for our production of The Head, Hands, and Toe Show II. After that closed, we talked about future productions and how both entities could benefit from the collaboration. Months later, I presented the idea for An Arabian Midsummer to Kelly Abshire, the proprietor. She introduced me to artist Corey Van Zandt, who had recently submitted a proposal for transforming their back yard into an Arabian wonderland. We hit the ground running. On the first workday, a feller named David Lee showed up out of nowhere and started trimming trees, jackhammering the patio, and fixing drainage problems like the Tasmanian devil cartoon character. With a few more hardworking volunteers, the transformation really began to take place.

AC: Why the Arabian-themed Midsummer?

DY: The Arabian theme seemed just right for the show and perfect for Ararat. I briefly consulted with our pal, Steve Moore, on some dramaturgical issues. Steve was immersed in the study of Islamic culture and the Middle East. His sound advice was to keep it storybook-style, which we have.

AC: Your production has an enormous cast of actors and dancers. What sort of spectacles can the audience look forward to seeing?

DY: Puck rounds the earth on a flying carpet; Philostrate wields a mean scimitar; Oberon arrives in a puff of smoke. There are several production numbers, and all of them include many beautiful, belly-dancing harem girls. Harnessing and guiding the contagious energy conjured by a large group of performers is a wonderful challenge. The results are often mighty awesome.

Though the show takes place at a restaurant, it isn't dinner theatre. Ararat is serving inside while the play is performed outside. Audience members wishing to dine should do so well before the show's 9pm start or just after curtain. (Tickets are two-for-one if you have dinner before or after the show, but you must have reservations.)

An Arabian Midsummer Night's Dream runs through July 29, Fri-Sun, 9pm, at Ararat Restaurant, 111 E. North Loop. For more information, call 474-TIXS. For dinner reservations, call 419-1692.

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Tongue and Groove Theatre, Ararat Restaurant, Theatarat, An Arabian Midsummer Night's Dream, David Yeakle, The Head, Hands, and Toe Show II, Kelly Abshire, Corey Van Zandt, David Lee, Steve Moore

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