When The Columbus Dispatch printed its annual summer event listing in May, we made a notation on the calendar that The Actors' Theatre of Columbus would be performing "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Schiller Park this season.

When The Columbus Dispatch printed its annual summer event listing in May, we made a notation on the calendar that The Actors' Theatre of Columbus would be performing "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in Schiller Park this season. The Shakespeare comedy is one of our favorite plays and we hoped we would get the opportunity to see it performed.

GEOFF: We arrived at Schiller Park about 15 minutes before show time. Even though a large crowd had gathered, we found a great spot for our blanket in the middle of the others. The audience was really varied. There were senior citizens, families with children of all ages, couples and groups of friends.

MELISSA: We had eaten an early dinner with the kids before we left the house so we only packed a bottle of champagne. A number of other people in the audience had brought fairly elaborate spreads. People were finishing up delicious-looking salads, sandwiches and fruit. I wished that we had done the same. This is one place where you really can enjoy a gourmet picnic.

GEOFF: We are not regular theatergoers. But Shakespeare in the park - now in its 30th season - is one of the truly great Columbus traditions. The charming setting on a grassy hillside in the heart of German Village can't be beat. The professional actors bring to life plays written nearly 500 years ago - not for stuffy scholars, but for general audiences looking for lively entertainment. The enthusiastic performances and printed programs, with brief plot summaries and historical notes, help tear down the barriers of Elizabethan English. Even novices like us can appreciate the music of the verse, and get pulled into the story.

MELISSA: During the first act, Geoff popped open the champagne and we each had a glass. I know Geoff was wishing we would have brought chairs to sit on; I was fine on the blanket but wished I had thought to bring a pillow. Before long, we both forgot about our seating arrangements and were captivated by the play.

GEOFF: As twilight turned to dark, a half moon shined overhead and summer insects twinkled in the stage lights. An occasional breeze stirred the summer air. The play skipped along, with lots of laughs at the expense of lovelorn characters teased mercilessly by the spells of ornery forest fairies. Seriously, this is fun stuff (even if I do prefer the tragedies, like Othello). When the troupe passed the hat for donations at intermission, I marveled again that this is free - and really something special. How had we let several years go by without attending Shakespeare in the park?

MELISSA: When the play ended, we weren't ready to call it a night. We decided we were in the mood for a beer and headed over to Beck's Tavern, a low-key bar hidden in the middle of the neighborhood (284 E. Beck St.) and quiet enough for conversation. Why hurry home? If anything is worth the price of a sitter, this was it.

The financials:

Freewill donation at the play: $10

Beers and tip at Beck's Tavern: $12

Babysitting: Grandma was visiting from Florida so we got a freebie but the outing was definitely worth the price of sitter.

TOTAL COST OF THE EVENING: $22

(but probably more like $62 if we had had to pay a babysitter)