Once upon a time, there was a young man born in a small town called Stratford-upon-Avon. He grew up and wrote a play called A Midsummer Night’s Dream which became one of the most-produced and beloved plays of the European/American theatrical canon. William Shakespeare’s work has captivated the heart, body, and soul of audiences, drawing them into fantastical theatrical experiences for centuries. Prepare yourself for a 21st-century exploration of The Bard’s classic story of magic, mischief, mystery, and love with a Rock-n-Roll twist.
Four lovers from the city of Athens want to love and be loved but are thwarted by their society’s strict rules and expectations. Hermia is forbidden from marrying her true love, Lysander, by her father Egeus who has chosen Demetrius as his future son-in-law. As an Athenian man, Egeus has the power to sentence his daughter to death if she disobeys his wishes; and he threatens to do so if Hermia tries to marry Lysander. Traditionally, the character of Lysander is a man but in Chapman’s upcoming production,* Lysander is a woman. By including and honoring queer experiences in this production, we hope that audiences will recognize similar patterns of discrimination that we still see in the United States and around the world today.
The ancient Roman poet Virgil once said, “love conquers all” and because of their love of theatre, the students, faculty, and staff involved in this production have been able to conquer the difficulties that performing artists still face from the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shakespeare wrote many plays throughout his lifetime, many of which were impacted by plague, sickness, and the frequent closing and reopening of theaters. All the cast and crew in this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are conscious of COVID’s impact on live theatre and have taken actions to maintain their health responsibly. Despite current challenges, the state of the performing arts feels like one of rebirth and delight as we return to theaters and play on stage again. Through the magic of Puck, Oberon, Titania, and their fairy band, we encourage audiences to become engrossed in the world of the play. The characters engage the audience in conversation and the actors want reactions and responses. Audiences are invited to step into the enchanted forest, where the Athenians fall in love and the Mechanicals rehearse their play, a place where everyone is welcome to be their fullest self.
The artistic direction of this play is most inspired by the Rock and Roll era of the 1960s and 1970s, but like the timeless nature of Shakespeare’s works, this setting of Athens should be observed as being in a timeless world. The reality of the forest is ambiguous and so are distinct lines between the stage, its players, and the audience, to capture the inclusivity and playfulness of this playwright. Shakespeare is not as “stuffy” as most people think and just as theatre will continue to prevail despite the COVID-19 pandemic, his works will continue to engage audiences for generations to come. Whatever wandering through the forest brought you to this production, all of the contributors to Chapman University’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream hope your experience in the theatre feels like a wonderful dream.
*Chapman University Department of Theatre Presents:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Directed by Thomas F. Bradac
November 5 & 6, 2021
Musco Center for the Arts
Nikki Trippler is a senior studying Theatre Studies and Strategic & Corporate Communication at Chapman and is a student of the Dramaturgy (TH 373) course. Throughout the course, students explore the complex and multifaceted role of the dramaturg in the contemporary American theatre, in both professional and academic settings. They explore the dramaturg’s role in the development of new dramatic texts and live productions and they learn and apply the skills and theories of dramaturgy by reading and discussing the latest critical and theoretical research on the topic, analyzing scripts and productions, and participating in hands-on, collaborative production projects.
To view the Midsummer website created by the dramaturgy students, please visit this link.