The Donkey Show
The Donkey Show sounds like something that would take place at your local petting zoo, but rest assured–there are no real animals involved. Just a blur of glitter, disco music, and cross dressing. The Donkey Show is a disco adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Now that play is trippy enough without adding strobe lights and a disco ball, but Diane Paulus (the show’s director) has done just that.
Performed every Saturday night at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, the show is less a play than an experience. The action starts in line outside, as you watch women (and men) tumble out of limos decked out in feather boas and afro wigs, and then Puck comes whizzing out of the theater on rollerblades, stopping traffic in his light-up hat. When you walk inside, there’s pulsing disco music, a dance floor, and men in hot pants covered in glitter dancing on platforms.
After some dancing, the show unfolds around and within the audience, enveloping the spectators like some strange ritual. If you’re not familiar with the story of Midsummer, the action can be tough to follow, but the story is pretty basic, and what’s truly entertaining about this show is watching the actors’ movements, the way the entire theater is used as a stage, how the music becomes an integral part of the experience. One of my favorite parts of the show was that it turns Shakespeare on its head by having women play most of the male parts, while the men dance half-naked. It’s a refreshing reversal.
The actors aren’t the only ones decked out in costume–most of the audience comes prepared, wearing an impressive array of ’70s era fashion. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect–I knew the show was flashy, so I wanted to wear something fun, but not so over the top that actors were pulling me up on stage. So I went with a new black t-shirt with paillettes on the sleeves, my vintage ’70s necklace, and a bright pink mini skirt I bought at Express my freshmen year of college (still fits!).
It was a great way to spend a Saturday night with good friends in Boston, and the dance floor tickets were only $25. If you’re ever in the area and looking for something different to do, I’d recommend it!