Entering the Arb Peony Garden from Observatory last year, we were met by bed after bed of peonies in full bloom and by recorder players and a lutenist, dressed in Elizabethan costume, who played an overture of sixteenth-century tunes while students, parents with children, and townspeople of all ages wandered in and found places to sit, listen, chat, and admire the peonies. Some brought cushions or low lawn chairs. Most of us sat on the grass.
The play began as the duke of Athens and his Amazon bride-to-be strolled in on the grass between us and the gardens, both peacefully anticipating their wedding four days afterward. They were followed by the two other sets of lovers whose lives would be much stormier before the play was over and by the clowns planning a rehearsal of their play in honor of the duke's wedding. Here the scene changed, and the musicians led the way as the audience followed the characters into the woods. I met friends I hadn't expected to see, and we were feeling invigorated and mildly adventurous, scrambling through the woods, on our way to see the king and queen of the fairies.