Shakespeare in the Grove Returns to Chesapeake

Written by Laura M. Oliver on .

Each year at the end of June in Chesapeake there is a group that keeps their fingers crossed that the mosquitoes will be a little bit smaller than usual.
They pray that there will be just a few days without rain. They fight over who gets the most comfortable lawn chair backstage. And they walk around in tights and long dresses in record breaking heat. 

What would make someone do this? Only The Bard. Welcome to the 18th Season of Shakespeare in the Grove at Tidewater Community College’s Chesapeake Campus at the beautiful Wooded Grove.

TheTempestposter Large 000This is one of my favorite events every year in Hampton Roads. It is good quality theater available for free to whoever shows up. Audience members are encouraged to arrive early with picnic baskets full of goodies, spread out and enjoy some quality time with friends before the production starts. There are some vendors selling snacks but I just love sitting down with cheese, bread, grapes and olive oil to snack on. You may want to go with an Italian theme this year for your snacks to fit with this year’s production.

The selection for 2014 is one of Shakespeare’s last plays “The Tempest.” It’s got it all: action, romance, magic and comedy. Laura Agudelo is directing this year’s production. I managed to track her down and ask her a few questions about the challenges of doing Shakespeare in the Grove.

AltDaily: What made you want to direct "The Tempest" at TCC for their summer program?

Laura Agudelo: I was asked to direct by Ed Jacob, Artistic Director and retired TCC professor. I jumped at the chance because the Grove has a special place in my heart. I performed here in 2000 and 2001 and assisted directed in 2006. Ed Jacob was my high school drama teacher, and now I too teach drama at Grassfield High School.

How is your production different from the others times it has been done?

It is primarily different because of my own vision. What I love about a play is that it takes on a new life based solely on the people involved in it. My production has a focus on the use of magic and how we hold the magic to make things okay in our lives if we want it.

What makes Shakespeare in the Grove unique in the theater community in Hampton Roads?

Firstly, it has made a name for itself and survived. This is the 18th year! Yes, it is free theater... who doesn't love free things... but it has survived even being Shakespeare. The people of Hampton Roads haven't shied away from it in 18 years. To come out to the wooded grove with blankets chairs and a picnic to share with a community of people, there is something lovely and old fashioned about it. A group sharing art... just lovely.

What are the challenges in doing the show outdoors?

Dealing with mother nature. The fear of rain. The bugs. The heat. The sound of helicopters and the local fire department.

What advice would you give to someone who has no experience with Shakespeare or is trying to bring someone with them who isn't quite a willing participant?

Laura: Come!!! Don't be put off by the language. Watch the physicality of the actors. Watch the facial expressions. Sit back and feel what is going on. So many people get scared away grow the language.... and then turn off. Fall into the visceral experience, and let the stage pictures pull you through the story.


So bring your lawn chairs, blankets or seat cushions (there are some bleachers but I can tell you from previous experience they weren’t designed for comfort) and come check out the show. This may be your new tradition for the next 17 years!

“The Tempest” will be playing June 25th through June 29th in the Wooded Grove by the Chesapeake TCC Campus. Admission is completely free and the performance begins at 8 p.m. each evening. For more information call 757-822-5219

Laura M. Oliver
About Laura M. Oliver
Laura M. Oliver grew up in Chesapeake, VA and always swore she wouldn't live here as an adult. She now lives 10 minutes away from her high school bedroom. When she isn't blogging at she is generally being pushed by her sister at the gym or watching anything that Joss Whedon has touched. She occasionally dabbles in community theater and longs for the day she isn't playing the crazy witch, evil stepmother, bullying sister etc. You can watch her on Channel 13 WVEC on Sunday mornings talking about coupons and free stuff.

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Laura M. Oliver