A Modern Midsummer
I’m Daniella Snyder, a second-year graduate student at Villanova University, and your ‘Cat in Falvey Library’s Stacks. I’ll be posting about academics– from research to study habits and everything in between– and how the Falvey Library can play a large role in your success here on campus.
Villanova Theatre is proud to present A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Edward Sobel, on stage November 12-24.
Beware the forest outside Athens, where mischief reigns and faeries tease and torment. 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 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. Check out Milliman’s dramaturgical guide to learn more.
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.
For those of you who haven’t seen A Midsummer Night’s Dream before, you might want to check out a more traditional production of the play before you see Villanova Theatre’s modern re-imagining. Don’t worry, Falvey has you covered. We have two DVD versions of the play in our permanent collection, we have the 1994 issue of The Villanovan that reports a previous production of Midsummer, and you can stream at least 3 different productions of the play through our subscription to Digital Theatre +. We also have access to the BBC version of Midsummer with video and text transcripts. Finally, check out the Midsummer educational guide from Villanova Theatre.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is on stage from November 12 to 24. Buy your tickets here.
Daniella Snyder is so excited to see Villanova Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Her favorite Shakespearean play is Othello. She also wants to thank Sarah Wingo, the Falvey Subject Librarian for English, Theatre, and Romance Languages, for her help and information about valuable Shakespearean resources.