The mirrored ball will make its last glittering rotations to disco anthems by the likes of Donna Summer and Earth, Wind & Fire, and with that the era of “The Donkey Show” will end. The groundbreaking reinterpretation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a Studio 54-like fantasy will have its last dance at the American Repertory Theater’s (A.R.T.) Oberon on Sept. 7, nearly 10 years after its official opening on Sept. 9, 2009.
With such a long run, the interactive production, which encourages audience members to drink and dance as part of the beat-heavy dream, has come to feel like a Saturday night staple. For the estimated 150,000-plus audience members who have attended one of its 885 performances — a group that includes many repeat “super fans” — it may be hard to remember when the show, an updating of Shakespeare’s tale of romantic illusion (and confusion) in a nightclub setting, was new.
“‘The Donkey Show’ was the first show of my first season as artistic director,” recalls Diane Paulus ’88, the A.R.T.’s Terrie and Bradley Bloom Artistic Director, in an email interview. The show, which had already run for six years off-Broadway and toured globally, was first staged at Oberon in Cambridge on Aug. 21, 2009. Featuring scenic design by Scott Pask, costume design by David C. Woolard, lighting design by Evan Morris, and sound design by David Remedios, the production was initially scheduled to run only through October. Responding to both critical acclaim and popular demand, the A.R.T. announced two months later that the show’s run would be open-ended. It has played nearly every Saturday night since.
“I felt it offered a galvanizing way to express A.R.T.’s mission to expand the boundaries of theater,” says Paulus.
Originally presented as part of a semester-long “Shakespeare Exploded” festival, along with “Sleep No More” and “Best of Both Worlds” (reimaginings of “Macbeth” and “The Winter’s Tale,” respectively), “The Donkey Show” and the two other productions expanded the way audiences took in the work of the Bard.