TN Shakespeare Co. & U of M to Present MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, 6/4-21

Tennessee Shakespeare Company (TSC), the Mid-South's professional classical theatre, in partnership with the University of Memphis' Department of Theatre & Dance presents a magical, family-friendly, Louisiana bayou-inspired production of A Midsummer Night's Dream on the U of M's Mainstage from June 4-21.

The southern-infused production will feature the company's largest cast in its seven seasons and will explore the expansiveness and technical capabilities of the U of M mainstage. The team of professional designers consists of present U of M faculty and alumni, and the cast features talented U of M actors interning alongside performers of Actors' Equity Association assembled from around the nation.

The production's title sponsor is FedEx, making possible Free Will Kids Night every Thursday night (up to four children 17 years and younger admitted free when accompanied by a paying, attending guardian) and the new addition this season of Family Morning Matinees for all ages every Wednesday morning at 10:30 am ($10 tickets for an abbreviated version of the show).

Additional funding is generously provided by Owen and Margaret Tabor, First Tennessee Foundation, Xfinity, and Independent Bank.

Directed by TSC's Stephanie Shine (Romeo and Juliet, A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Southern Yuletide), A Midsummer Night's Dream places Duke Theseus' court in World War II America and the peaceful though mischievous fairie kingdom in the spanish-moss strewn bayous of turn-of-the-19th century Louisiana. Big Band, Swing, Cajun, and Creole music will be played live on stage by the hard-working, busking men of the French Quarter.

Since the 17th century, Shakespeare's most magical comedy has been one of his most-produced on English-speaking stages. Likely written around 1595, chronologically joining the script with Romeo and Juliet, Love's Labor's Lost, and The Merchant of Venice - A Midsummer Night's Dream is unusual when compared to the rest of Shakespeare's canon. It has no readily identifiable main source. Shakespeare was inspired by the writings of Plutarch, Chaucer, Ovid, as well as folklore, but his magical play of chaos is likely his very own creation. Uniquely, he orchestrates four main themes, all entirely different, without relegating any to secondary status.

Shakespeare's symphony of a narrative telescopes in a finite period of time. He weaves together the waking and sleeping worlds; loving and violent worlds; the spirit and mortal worlds; day and night; male and female; jealousy and compassion in a musical romp that is Shakespeare's first deep consideration of the relationship between art and humanity.

The world of the Court, where Duke Theseus has violently triumphed over and won Queen Hippolyta, begins to spin off its seasonal axis as the nighttime spirit world ruled by Oberon and Titania tilts in a petty feud. Racing into the dark woods amid these shifts are four young lovers ruled by their hearts and Bottom's group of musical hard-working men rehearsing ambitiously their self-scribed play. Fairie Robin Goodfellow (Puck) is the link between all the worlds, wreaking havoc through magic transformation of the heart and head (that of a donkey).

Out of the discord comes concord and a seeing of the world with "parted eye." An evening of genuine playmaking and love transforms into marriage and celebration, which begets blessings bestowed on all the worlds, all humanity, all spirituality.

"Our production explores both the collision and the communion of different groups of beings," says director Shine, while in rehearsal at the U of M mainstage. "The worlds within the play are vastly different, and yet common ground is forged when all are found in the same mystical forest.

"Throughout literature, trials by wilderness offer the possibility to emerge a changed being; and our play radiates with the same transformation for characters escaping into the night woods to question their desires. I can think of no more mystical, magical, and mysterious place in America than the bayous of southern Louisiana with its sultry mists, gymnastic cypress trees, and prehistoric creatures. The surrounding human cultures within nearby New Orleans celebrate and retain their origins through ritual, language, custom, food, and music unique to the region. What we know of Louisiana and New Orleans lends an exotic reality to this fantastical play, letting its powers of transformation root more deeply."

About the Partnership between TSC and the U of M

"Two years ago," says Holly Lau, Chairwoman of U of M's Department of Theatre & Dance," Dan McCleary and Stephanie Shine met with me and offered to conduct an audition and cast students in their production of Romeo and Juliet. What a positive experience that was! Meanwhile, I mentioned our theatre lay dormant in the summer. Dan immediately began 'dreaming' up this deeper partnership.

"TSC and U of M are sharing strengths, resources, and vision; and it enhances both organizations. I am thrilled that our students share the stage with TSC professional artists, that gifted alums have come back from afar, and that our faculty designers are adding their creative magic. The halls are not silent this summer - they are alive with verse and song. It is sublime!"

The company

A Midsummer Night's Dream features a professional, Equity ensemble from around the country and Memphis.

Returning to TSC are Rachel Brun* as Helena, Shaleen Cholera as the Indian boy, Dave Demke* as Egeus, Caley Milliken* as Hermia, Charisse Norment as Peaseblossom, Jerry Rogers as Snug, Joey Shaw as Peter Quince, and Phil Darius Wallace* as Theseus/Oberon.

New to the company are Jon Castro (Memphis) as Lysander, Noah Duffy (Seattle) as Puck, Jason Eschhofen (Memphis) as Flute, David Hammons (Memphis) as Starveling, Adam Hogue (Memphis) as Snout, Roman Kalei (Memphis) as Demetrius, Kaitlyn Maurer (Memphis) as Mustardseed, Emily McCormick (Memphis) as Cobweb, G. Valmont Thomas* (Seattle) as Bottom, and Stephanie Weeks* (New York) as Hipployta/Titania.

The design team includes, from the University of Memphis, Janice Benning Lacek (costumes), Brian Ruggaber (scenic and properties), Ben Fichthorn (lighting), and Paul Revaz (technical director). The music arranger/director is Joey Shaw, and TSC's First Folio script and analysis is provided by Canada's Neil Freeman. The stage manager is Rachel Dooley-Harris*, with Shaleen Cholera and Megan Gardner.

Performance Schedule at the University of Memphis' Mainstage (Theatre Building on Central Ave.)

Thursday, June 4 at 7:00 pm - Preview; Free Will Kids' Night

Friday, June 5 at 7:00 pm - Preview

Saturday, June 6 at 7:00 pm - Opening; Post-show party

Sunday, June 7 at 3:00 pm

Wednesday, June 10 at 10:30 AM - Family Morning Matinee

Thursday, June 11 at 7:00 pm - Free Will Kids Night

Friday, June 12 at 7:00 pm

Saturday, June 13 at 7:00 pm

Sunday, June 14 at 3:00 pm

Wednesday, June 17 at 10:30 AM - Family Morning Matinee

Thursday, June 18 at 7:00 pm - Free Will Kids Night

Friday, June 19 at 7:00 pm

Saturday, June 20 at 7:00 pm

Sunday, June 21 at 3:00 pm - Closing

Ticket Information

All performances are general admission (first come/first seated) and will be played on the indoor Mainstage at the University of Memphis' Theatre Building, located on campus at 3745 Central Avenue.

All tickets are $33 and are on sale now.

Three Thursday night performances (June 4, 11, 18) are Free Will Kids' Nights: Children 17 years and younger are admitted FREE when accompanied by a paying/attending guardian.

All Seniors and college students receive discounts with valid I.D.

NEW: Family Morning Matinees with a running time of less than two hours on June 10 and June 17 at 10:30 am, are available for $10 per person (no other discounts may apply).

Purchase tickets in person Monday - Friday, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm at TSC's office located at 3092 Village Shops Drive in Germantown, or by calling 901-759-0604, or by going on-line to The TSC Box Office inside the U of M Theatre Building will begin selling tickets one hour prior to each performance on-site. Free parking. No refunds. Cast and schedule are subject to change.

Company Bios

Janice Benning Lacek (Costume Designer) has been designing professionally across the U.S. and internationally for theatre, opera, and dance since 1987. Highlights include La Jolla Playhouse, A.C.T., Syracuse Stage, San Diego Rep, American University of Cairo, Egypt, and over 23 productions works by William Shakespeare with the Colorado, Utah, and Oregon Shakespeare Festivals. CSF's Richard II was included by invitation in the US entry at the 1999 Prague Quadrennial. With TSC: Midsummer Night's Dream 2009, Tempest 2010 (makeup designs), and costume design for Twelfth Night in 2014. Janice is a former resident designer and founding company member of Denver's Curious Theatre Company. Mid-South audiences have also seen her work in recent years with Opera Memphis and Theatre Memphis. Janice has taught costume design at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Kenyon College. She joined the faculty of University of Memphis in 2007 with teaching specialties in costume design and technology.

Rachel Brun* (Helena; Journeyman Artist-Manager) got hooked on the work of TSC last season when she appeared as Juliet in TSC's mainstage production and taught in Memphis schools with The Romeo and Juliet Project. Most recently, she appeared in TSC's Twelfth Night (Sebastian) and Richard III (Anne, Prince Edward, etc.). In her native Seattle, Rachel has appeared in Attempts on Her Life (The Horse in Motion), Owen Meany's Christmas Pageant (Book-It Repertory Theatre), Domesticity (The Town Theater), Calling Nancy Drew (STAGEright), and Brilliant Traces (The Market Theatre). She received her BA from the University of Washington, where her favorite credits include Macbeth (Lady Macduff), August: Osage County (Ivy), Rough Magic (Miranda), and Urinetown. Film: Dead Body (Ilsa).

Jon Castro (Lysander) is currently a Senior at The University of Memphis, working on his BFA in Theatre with a concentration in Performance. He is thrilled to join Tennessee Shakespeare Company. Previous credits include Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Government Inspector, The Pillowman, and Distance.

Dave Demke* (Egeus; Choreographer; Voice and Text Coach) directed TSC's production of Richard III last fall and played Quince in the company's 2009 production. As an actor, he has appeared in productions in New York and regionally. Internationally, he has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and has played the role of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream in Beijing, China. He was the Artistic Director of Stark Raving Theatre in Portland, OR, for several years, and is a company member of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. He is a Designated Linklater Voice teacher, and he holds an MFA in Performance from the University of Maryland. Dave spent this past semester teaching in the Theatre Department at the University of Memphis.

Rachel Dooley-Harris* (Stage Manager) received her BFA from the University of Houston, School of Theatre & Dance. Houston credits include Stark Naked Theatre's Debt Collectors and The God Game, Houston Shakespeare Festival's (ASM) The Taming of the Shrew (Asst. SM) and Othello (SM); Henry IV part one, The Alley Theatre's ECE Touring Productions of Oskar and the Big Bully Battle and Oskar and the Curiously Colorful Clash. Non-Houston credits include The Queen's Theatre premier of Hit-Lit, Shakespeare Walla Walla's The Merchant of Venice, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's Twelfth Night (Asst. SM), Much Ado About Nothing (SM), and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Following Midsummer, Rachel will return to Houston Shakespeare Festival for their production of The Merchant of Venice.

Noah Duffy (Puck), a New Jersey transplant to Seattle's misty hills, he holds a BFA in Acting, Dance Emphasis from Cornish College of the Arts. Noah has danced with the Atlantic Contemporary Ballet Theatre, toured and taught nationally with The Missoula Children's Theatre, and produced the tragically hilarious (and shockingly true) solo show Caught One-Handed. Noah is a member of several Seattle-based companies, devising new theatre with Seattle's sassiest inter*arts gang The Libertinis, and touring internationally as a ensemble member and producer of The Seagull Project.

Jason Eschhofen (Francis Flute) Originally from Ohio, Jason moved to Memphis to earn his MM in Vocal Performance from the University of Memphis. As an actor/singer/dancer, he has appeared in One Man, Two Guvnors (Band Leader), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Miles Gloriosus), Così fan tutte (Guglielmo), Don Giovanni (Masetto), Mary Poppins (ensemble/dancer), and Hairspray! (Nicest Kid). As a music director, he has worked on You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, One Man, Two Guvnors, The Wedding Singer, and Chess. Upcoming roles include Anthony in Sweeney Todd as well as the male swing and Associate Music Director for Next to Normal.

Ben Fichthorn (Lighting Designer) was born and raised in Memphis and now resides in New York City where he freelances as a lighting designer and lighting technician. He is an alum of the University of Memphis Theatre Department where he received his BFA in Theatre Lighting & Sound Design. Midsummer is Ben's TSC debut and the first time designing at U of M since graduating in 2012. He is excited to be a part of this production and looks forward to working with TSC again in the future.

Neil Freeman (Text Consultant) is a teacher, director, text coach, and actor. He is the man behind the acclaimed First Folio editions published by Applause and utilized across the globe. Currently Associate Professor Emeritus (of Theatre) at the University of British Columbia in Canada, he is also a Master Teacher with Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, and Text Consultant to several other U.S. and Canadian theatres. His range of teaching, coaching, and directing ranges from the fifteen-year-olds in youth companies to high school teachers, through university level students (undergraduate and graduate in both liberal arts and the top-ranked professional training schools) to professional theatre companies and individual actors.

Megan Gardner (2nd Assistant Stage Manager) is a student at The University of Memphis. She is majoring in Theatre with a concentration in Performance, and minoring in Communications with a concentration in TV and Film Production. You may have seen her this past season in University of Memphis productions of How I Learned to Drive and Macbeth.

David Hammons (Starveling) has appeared on various stages around Memphis, and most recently was in Haint (Charlie) with New Moon and As You Like It (Silvius) at Theatre Memphis.

Joseph Hodge (Master Electrician, Lighting Board Operator) is a recent graduate of The University of Memphis. His previous lighting design credits include Blues for an Alabama Sky at U of M, In Sweet Remembrance with Endstation Theatre Company, and The Woman in Black with New Moon Theatre Company. Joseph will be attending the University of Florida in the fall to pursue an M.F.A in lighting design.

Adam Christopher Hogue (Snout) A Mid-South native, some of his more recent theatrical credits include William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew (Petruchio), Footloose (Chuck Cranston), and Neil Simon's The Odd Couple (Female Version) (Manolo Costazuela).

Roman Kalei (Snout) is a third-year BFA student at the University of Memphis studying Theatre with a concentration in Theatre Performance. Local credits include Theatre Memphis' As You Like It (LeBeau), Sarafina (Crocodile), and University productions The Physicists (Uwe Sievers) and Blues for an Alabama Sky (Leland).

Kaitlyn Maurer (Mustardseed) is a third-year BFA theatre major with a concentration in Performance at the University of Memphis. She was last seen in Voices of the South's The Awakening. U of M credits include Macbeth, The Little Prince, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Eleemosynary.

Emily McCormick (Cobweb) has just finished her first year at the University of Memphis, where she is studying Theatre Performance with a concentration in Musical Theatre. In her first year, she appeared in The Wedding Singer (ensemble) and Blues for an Alabama Sky (Angel). Other credits include Les Miserables (Eponine), The King and I (Lady Thiang), and Fiddler on the Roof (Golde). She will be playing the role of Natalie in Next to Normal this fall at the university.

Caley Milliken* (Hermia) TSC: Richard III (Elizabeth/ensemble), The Tempest (Ariel), Romeo and Juliet (Lady Capulet/Tybalt), Julius Caesar (Marc Antony), and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Peaseblossom). NYC: The Dick & the Rose at Cherry Lane Theatre/FringeNYC; Francis Goes to War at The Humanist Project. Regional: Clybourne Park at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; Wittenberg and A Christmas Carol at Portland Stage Company; Women Beware Women at Constellation Theatre; Much Ado About Nothing and Antigone at Corning Classics; Leap Year, Othello, Cindy Bella, The Ladies Man, A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare & Company. TV: VEEP. Training: MFA (Acting) Purdue University; Shakespeare & Company.

Charisse Norment (Peaseblossom) is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a BFA and concentration in Performing Arts. She is very excited to be back with Tennessee Shakespeare after performing and teaching with The Romeo and Juliet Project this spring. She has also performed in several different productions around Memphis, including Fabulation, Polaroid Stories, The Government Inspector, and Medea.

Paul Revaz (Technical Director) is a recent graduate of the University of Memphis Theatre program and is thrilled to be working with Tennessee Shakespeare Company. Past technical positions include Technical Director/Production Manager at Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA, Production Manager at the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival in South Bend, IN, and Technical Director at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival in Provincetown, MA.

Jerry Rogers (Snug) is honored to be joining TSC in this production after working as a teaching artist with The Romeo and Juliet Project this spring. A native of Halls, TN, he holds a BA in music from Lane College, and studied musical theatre at the University of Memphis. Favorite theatre credits include Kiss Me Kate, We Live Here, Best of Enemies, The Color Purple, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and Ragtime, all with Circuit Playhouse; Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead, Chess, and The Threepenny Opera at the University of Memphis; and Porgy & Bess with Opera Memphis.

Brian Ruggaber (Scenic/Props Designer) is proud to return to Tennessee Shakespeare Company, having designed TSC's Richard III and Twelfth Night this season, in partnership with the University of Memphis's Department of Theatre and Dance. A recent transplant to Memphis, he is an award-winning scenic designer who currently heads the Scenic Design Program at the University of Memphis. He had designed scenery for over 130 productions including Opera, Drama, Musical Theatre, and Dance. Prior to joining UM's faculty he was an Assistant Professor of Scenic Design at University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and an Associate Professor of Design at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is a proud member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 and has an MFA from The University of Massachusetts and BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Joey Shaw (Peter Quince, Journeyman Artist-Manager) played Romeo and designed sound for TSC's mainstage Romeo and Juliet last year. He continues as an artist-manager this year, playing Romeo and music-directing in The Romeo and Juliet Project, and touring schools with TSC's original show Shakespeare Said It. Joey is also looking forward to conducting courses for TSC's young players in the youth theatre training intensives this June. In his native Seattle, he has worked at Book-it Repertory Theatre (with TSC's Stephanie Shine), as well as Seattle Shakespeare Company, Greenstage, and the Horse in Motion. He holds a BA in Drama from the University of Washington, where he met the lovely Rachel Brun.

Stephanie Shine+ (Director) is the creator of The Romeo and Juliet Project as well as a resident artist for TSC. Her TSC directorial credits include Romeo and Juliet (2011, 2012, 2014, 2015), It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play (2012, 2013), Southern Yuletide, and the touring shows Shakespeare's Greatest Hits, Shake(s), Rattle, and Roll, and Shakespeare Said It! Onstage, she performed the female role in Unto the Breach and appeared as Gertrude in Hamlet. In addition, Stephanie serves as the annual Gala's Auctioneer and curates the material for and directs TSC's Literary Salons. From 1998 until love brought her to Memphis in 2011, she was the Artistic Director of Seattle Shakespeare Company. For SSC, she directed 17 productions including The Threepenny Opera, Cyrano de Bergerac, and the lauded all-male Taming of the Shrew. Other directorial credits include The Taming of the Shrew and The Comedy of Errors for Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the award-winning one-woman internationally touring Marilyn Monroe Biopic, Marilyn: Forever Blonde, and several new works for Seattle's Book-It Repertory Theatre. Her production of I am of Ireland opened Book-It's 25th Anniversary Season in September of 2014. As an actor, she has performed with The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, NYC's Theatre for a New Audience, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Alley Theatre in Houston, Arizona Theatre Company, ACT, The Empty Space, and Seattle Children's Theatre among others. Her Shakespeare roles include Juliet, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, Regan, Feste, Kate, Bianca, Dionyza, The Princess of France, Hero, Perdita, and The Chorus in Henry V. Ms. Shine is a graduate of both the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts and the University of Washington's Professional Actor Training Program under Bob Hobbs.

G. Valmont Thomas* (Bottom) plays at TSC for the first time. Seattle credits include The Cherry Orchard (dir. Dan Sullivan) at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Othello and Macbeth (dir. Arne Zaslove) at The Bathhouse Theatre, and The Illusion (with Stephanie Shine). His 13 seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival included Macbeth (Macbeth), Falstaff (The Merry Wives of Windsor), Feste (Twelfth Night), and the Soothsayer (Antony and Cleopatra). Credits as an audiobook narrator include The Louisiana P.I. in James Sallis' six-book Lew Griffin series, Ron Hansen's award-winning The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and the late Manning Marable's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Malcolm X, Malcolm: A Life of Re-Invention.

Phil Darius Wallace* (Theseus/Oberon) is a native of Flint, Michigan. He began his acting career with the Michigan Shakespeare festival as Caliban in The Tempest. TSC: As You Like It, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, The Tempest, The Glass Menagerie, Hamlet, and The Taming of the Shrew. He has traveled around the country performing as a solo performer as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes. TV: ABC's Nashville. Film: Nothing but the Truth. He is the voice of the documentary The Invaders, which is soon to be released, and he performed his one-man show on Frederick Douglass Off-Broadway this past winter.

Stephanie Weeks* (Hippolyta/Titania) has performed at many regional theatres and Off-Broadway with Obie Award-winning companies, Target Margin and Hoi Polloi. Some of her favorite roles include Salima in Ruined, Belle in A Christmas Carol, Tituba in The Crucible, and Shark in Oh My God I'm So Thirst(y) (Innovative Theater nomination). Film: Ex-Doofus... dir: Melvin Van Peebles, Tribeca Film Festival. Training: London Academy of Music and Drama, MFA: American Conservatory Theater.

+ Member of The Society of Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent national labor union.

* Member of Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

Tickets are $33 for all performances. June 4, 11, and 18 are Free Will Kids' Nights: Children 17 years and younger are admitted FREE when accompanied by a paying/attending guardian. All Seniors and college students receive discounts with valid I.D. Family Morning Matinees with a running time of less than two hours on June 10 and June 17 at 10:30 am, are just $10 per person (no other discounts may apply).

Box Office is (901) 759-0604 and; U of M Box Office opens one hour prior to each performance at the theatre.


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