Penobscot’s Horsepower Farm will be the setting for ISLE Theater Co.’s production of “Playing Mercury, a medieval-period comedy. MEGHAN BIRDSALL PHOTO

Down on the farm: Inspired by “As You Like It,” medieval comedy to be staged outdoors

PENOBSCOT — ISLE Theater Company is proud to announce the world premiere of Anna Fitzgerald’s “Playing Mercury,” a medieval-period comedy inspired by William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” Aug. 4-14 at Horsepower Farm in Penobscot. Starting June 15, tickets will go on sale for the outdoor performances. A digital, on-demand version of the comedy will be released in released in mid-September.

Directed by Marvin Merritt IV, “Playing Mercury” includes professional artists from Maine and across the United States. Staged outdoors, the production will transport the audience back to the Middle Ages with Horsepower Farm’s rolling fields and spruce forests as its scenery.

“I am thrilled to be creating another production to give our community a space to come together and enjoy live theater against a living backdrop” said Merritt said.

While Shakespeare’s plays are revered for their ability to illuminate the human condition, many people find the dated language inaccessible. Fitzgerald’s remedy is to respect the original work while modernizing the language. ISLE’s retelling will encourage audience members to reconsider their assumptions while laughing along the way.

In “Playing Mercury,” Rosalind throws aside her embroidery to lace up her bodice and restore order her English fiefdom in the wake of her father’s failed military campaign in France. In a captivating quest to recover her dad, she enlists the help of her clueless cousin Celia and the fief’s favorite jester Touchstone as they venture beyond the confines of the castle. What could possibly go wrong?

At almost 400 acres, Horsepower Farm is a diversified organic farm founded by Paul and Mollie Birdsall in 1972. Aptly named for its equine-powered operation, the farm offers a range of organic vegetables and fruits, dry beans, and free-range eggs. Blue Hill Heritage Trust, the community-based land trust founded by Paul Birdsall, will help with hosting visitors on the conserved property to support the production. Now managed by the farm’s subsequent two generations, Andy and Donna, and their son Drew and his wife, Meghan, the Birdsalls are excited to welcome visitors in such a new way. “We enjoy playing an active role in our community and look forward to introducing new friends and neighbors to our farm,” said Donna. “Hopefully, our animals will feel the same way!”

ISLE most recently staged the acclaimed “Do Not Move Stones” at the historic Settlement Quarry in Stonington. Produced in partnership with the Reach Performing Arts Center and Island Heritage Trust, the production drew more than 1,000 people over three evenings and was awarded eight Broadway World Regional Maine awards including “Best Production of the Year” and “Best Play” in 2021.

“Playing Mercury” is supported in part by grants from the Maine Community Foundation and the Onion Foundation. Contributions to the production are tax-deductible thanks to a fiscal sponsorship with Blue Hill Community Development. For more info, visit

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