Reimagining Of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Comes To Villanova Theatre
Villanova Theatre will present A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM directed by Edward Sobel and on stage November 12-24, 2019.
Shakespeare's comedy of passion and power throws two mismatched couples into the fray of a lovers' quarrel between the faerie king and queen - and soon they're all entangled in enchantments. Add to the mix the devious Puck and a hapless troupe of amateur actors, and mayhem abounds. This magical tale, boldly reimagined for our time, reveals the dangers of unbridled desire and the healing potential of the imagination.
Director Edward Sobel leads a cast of 16 Villanova graduate students, portraying the lovers, faeries, and novice actors drawn to the Athenian woods. Sobel's contemporary staging zeroes in on issues of gender politics while showcasing the darker forces at play in Shakespeare's well-loved comedy. According to Sobel, the Athens of this production is "a male-dominated world that thinks it's a democracy - but it's not." This Athenian worldview impacts its characters both politically and romantically. "Love is a dangerous thing," he adds, "and we want to reveal the way male characters manipulate passion in order to absorb rebellion and maintain their power."
The production features female-identifying actors in various male roles while the most politically powerful male characters are played by male-identifying actors. Female-identifying actors will portray the young lovers Lysander and Demetrius and members of the relentless acting troupe The Rude Mechanicals. The cross gender casting allows actors to both hilariously embody and also critique gender stereotypes.
Dramaturg Travis Milliman has extensively researched gender roles in society, both in Elizabethan England and modern-day America, suggesting that the oppressive forces at play will resonate with our audiences in a way that will cause them to perk up and listen. Milliman's research has also helped to illuminate the faerie world as it related to an Elizabethan audience. He says, "I want to prepare audiences for a Midsummer no one would have expected." An Elizabethan audience would have regarded the "Faerie World" as being a very real threat to sinners in their human society and believed that their wrongdoings could result in punishments or torture from vengeful faeries. While our understanding of "fairies" today has been infiltrated by the cute, Disney characters many of us know and love, this production plans to use the fearing subconscious to inspire the faerie world of Titania, Oberon and Puck.
Costume designer and second-year graduate student Asaki Kuruma's ambitious design conjures three distinct worlds: the regal Athenian court, ominous faeries, and lower-class actors. While audiences might not see wings on these faeries, they can expect to feel as though these haunting spirits are from a world mortals dare not enter. What's more, she has created silhouettes that allow female bodied actors to inhabit male roles in a way that is realistic and affecting. Kuruma blends repurposed materials, classical silhouettes, and couture inspiration to wardrobe a large ensemble, each of whom play multiple roles.
Deepening the world of the play is set designer Stephanie Hansen. Hansen's unified set marries the natural forest and classical architectural structures in order to suggest that these locations are far from separate and that the powers and mysteries of the woods are, in fact, an extension of the desires of the real world. Jerold Forsyth's lighting design will illuminate the foliage of the woods and create the dark and starry skies required to evoke the shadowy nighttime. John Stovicek's soundscape will emphasize the play's bewitching themes, bringing encroaching winds and haunting lullabies into the mix of theatrical spectacle.
The multi-talented cast includes acting scholars Cristy Chory (Demetrius), Effie Kammer (Titania) and Kale A. Thompson (Egeus), second-year graduate assistants Gabriel Henninger (Theseus) and Jay V. Kimberley (Oberon), first-year graduate assistants Sharese Salters (Puck/Philostrate) and Sarah Stryker (Lysander), and graduate students Amy Abrigo (Bottom), Hannah Deprey-Severance (Snug, et al), Meghan Dietzler (Helena), Manda Jacobi (Peter Quince), Angela Longo (Hermia), Lora Margerum (Flute, et al), Annalise Settefrati (Starveling, et al), Anna Sorentino (Snout, et al) and Melissa Sturges (Hippolyta).
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM runs at Villanova Theatre in Vasey Hall from November 12th - November 24th 2019. Speaker's Night, immediately following the performance on Thursday, November 21st, will feature a Q&A session with Villanova University English Professor and Shakespeare scholar Dr. Alice Dailey.
Vasey Hall is located on Villanova's main campus at the intersection of Lancaster & Ithan Avenues. Performances will be held Tuesdays - Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets run $21-$25, with discounts available for seniors, students, MA in Theatre alumni and groups. Tickets may be purchased at the Villanova Theatre Box Office (M-S, 12-5 pm) in person, by phone: (610) 519-7474, or online at www.villanovatheatre.org.