Any good play (or book, or movie) is, at its core, about us, about you and me, in some sense. It may be set in a faraway place; it may feature characters that are not even human, but something about the story, if it is a good story well told, resonates in us, teaches us about ourselves, and brings us closer to who we are.
This is especially true of Shakespeare’s plays. He seems to have an uncanny understanding of the human condition, and has made us laugh and cry and be appalled at and applaud ourselves again and again through the centuries– sometimes all at once.
So when I decided I wanted to direct Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the playhouse this summer, it didn’t seem all that much of a stretch to place it in a small, Midwestern college town, not unlike our own. And while I am NOT changing Shakespeare’s language (except for a few names here and there), I am placing it in a time not so very unlike our own, but a few decades ago, when the roles of women and men, parents and children, and authority and those in submission to it were more easily accepted and not so easily questioned.
The concept is simple. In this play, as in this community, there are four worlds, which collide, rub, challenge, and join one another intermittently. In our version and for our purposes, they are: 1) The University (Shakespeare’s court); 2) The Students (Shakespeare’s lovers); 3) The Locals (Shakespeare’s Mechanicals); and 4) The Children and Young People (Shakespeare’s Fairies). This last world will be cast as children and high school students, the natural group for whom magic is still possible.
For the auditions, I will encourage anyone who wants to audition to prepare a Shakespeare monologue or sonnet ahead of time, to show familiarity and understanding of the language. But those who cannot prepare ahead of time are encouraged to audition anyway; we will be doing several exercises in auditions to familiarize everyone with the language. Please be on time to the auditions, as we will be working as a group for the first half of the time. There will be LOTS OF MOVEMENT! So please wear comfortable clothing.
I will be looking for: 1) Those willing to take a RISK; 2) Those willing to MOVE; 3) Those willing to be CREATIVE; and 4) Those willing to tackle the LANGUAGE.
Language and understanding are the biggest worries for most people new to Shakespeare. Take heart! I have been teaching Shakespeare to actors and directing Shakespeare rookies for many years. It is one of my greatest joys to introduce this awesome writer to new people, and to discover its treasures together. I promise this play will be full of fun, romance, hilarity, and magic. The 1999 movie version of this play, starring Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Kevin Kline is an excellent introduction to the play.
So get ready for some fun as we explore and make A Midsummer Night’s Dream come true. Remember: it is, at its core, about ALL of us!