ENID, Okla. — "A Midsummer Night's Dream" gave Paul Johnson the perfect excuse to act badly.
To clarify, Johnson's role as Nick Bottom, in the famous Shakespeare play, is as a bad actor in a play ... within a play.
"[The role] allows you to overact a little bit because when [the actors] do put on their play for the duke, it's kind of a highlight of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Johnson said. "It's the end. And you get to see how bad these actors really are."
While this is Paul Johnson's first foray into Gaslight, it's not his, nor his family's, first dip into the theater pool. Paul has been acting for several decades, and his son, Alex Johnson, is actively involved in Gaslight and is the assistant director of this year's Shakespeare in the Park production.
Paul and Alex also have something in common: They have now played the same role of Nick Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"I actually saw him perform the same role that I'm performing when he was in college," Paul Johnson said. "Ever since then, I thought, 'Well that looks like a really fun role, I'd like to do that sometime.'"
When asked whether there is a friendly competition to see who can play the role better, Paul shook his head.
"There is no contest. He is a far better actor than I am, than I ever will be, and I am proud to say that."
The director of this year's free event, slated for 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Government Springs Park, is Bailey Wilson. Although she's been involved with Gaslight for about a decade, this is her debut as a director.
"Three years ago, we did 'Titus Andronicus,' and that was my first interaction with Shakespeare in the Park," Wilson said. "And then last year, I assistant directed "Romeo & Juliet" and really just fell in love with the whole production side."
Wilson said that from an actor's point of view, it's easy to appreciate Shakespeare considering it's one of the foundations of modern theater.
"We get a lot of classic trope from Shakespeare," Wilson said. "We get the everybody's in love with the wrong person, I overheard your conversation but I'm not going to tell you about it kind of thing, and a lot of Shakespeare gets retold in a lot of more modern stories and remakes — like the Leo DiCaprio 'Romeo & Juliet,' or 'She's the Man' is actually a retelling of 'Twelfth Night.'"
Directing allows Wilson to do things she wouldn't be able to do if she had an acting role in the show.
"It does hurt me a little bit to not be up there ... but it's really gratifying to be able to see your directing come to fruition," she said. "And I've always been the type of actor that wants to have my 2 cents in the director side, but now being the director, I get to do whatever I want. It's awesome."
Wilson will also be the director of next year's Shakespeare in the Park production, the identity of which is being kept secret for now. A reveal of next year's Gaslight season will be July 5 at First Friday.
Performers all the way from sixth grade to 60 will participate in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"It's a fun show," Paul Johnson said. "Even if people think they are intimidated by Shakespeare, this is the show to come to see because even if you're not getting 100% of the language, you will absolutely understand what's going on on stage."
IF YOU GO
Gaslight Theatre's Shakespeare in the Park: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Government Springs Park
Admission is free.