Making A Midsummer Night’s Dream A Reality
March 18, 2014 • 1,028 views
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of William Shakespeare’s most widely known and performed comedies. The play takes place in ancient Athens and is filled with magical creatures and love potions, but this isn’t the version that Performing Arts Director Jim Houle had in mind when he chose this mainstay for the school’s spring production. The Voice had a chance to sit down Houle and crew of the play to find out just how Pres plans to perform its own version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
According to stage manager Jenny Pershon, senior, the Pres production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be based off of traditional Japanese theater. This unique portrayal of the Shakespeare classic will include traditional Japanese clothing-inspired costumes and elements of Medieval Japan war figures such as Samurais and ninjas.
This creative decision was made by director Jim Houle who was inspired to try something original and transform this Shakespearean classic. “I directed the show once previously so I wanted to try a completely different approach. I was inspired by the Japanese culture when I visited Japan last April and it stayed with me… I couldn’t resist!”
While connecting a play written by an English Elizabethan playwright to Medieval Japan may seem difficult, Pershon states that there are actually a number of similarities that the production crew will be playing up. “Many of Japan’s traditions surround nature and gardens, so many bits of that nature will be incorporated in the sets. Also, there’s a lot of conflict between characters in the play. We’re emphasizing this conflict with sword and knife fighting that are inspired by Japanese Medieval war tactics,” said Pershon.
Another vital element of Japanese theater is the use of puppets. Pershon maintains that this element will also be incorporated, but mainly just to portray the story being told within the lines.
However, with all unique and ambitious ideas comes potential challenges and this production has been no exception. When dealing with the portrayal of a specific cultural reference, one major goal is to stay away from coming off as offensive to different people. “One challenge, of course, has to do with being traditionally correct in our representation of Japanese theater. However, Mr. Houle has done hours of research, and he has been to Japan at least once. He really does appreciate the culture, and you can see it when he talks about it,” said Pershon.
Another challenge is that Shakespearean plays themselves are often misogynistic in nature and do not put female characters in a favorable light. Being an all girls school focused on the empowerment of women, Pres is of course trying to improve this aspect of the play. “We’re trying to tweak the script so the women aren’t being controlled so much by the men,” said Pershon.
Additionally, an ambitious set and costume design can pose challenges as well. Pershon maintains this as she says, “Set is almost always a problem; ideas are always big and elaborate, but often cannot be fully fulfilled.” Budget often inhibits some ability to make a play a completely accurate, however, Houle and the crew are using everything in their disposal to make this Midsummer dream come alive. “Fortunately, it’s [the play] a dream, so there’s a fantasy element to our production so we can cut corners where we can’t get the correct type of Japanese garments and use that fantasy element to enhance it,” says Houle.
Despite its challenges, the cast and crew are putting in all they can to make this play as exciting and as engaging as possible. After all, sometimes plays can get a little slow in the middle and start to lose the attention of its audience. However, Houle states that this will not the case with Midsummer. “I really am more excited about this production than virtually any play I have directed here in 10 years because almost every scene is exciting to watch. This particular play the actors are just so good, the characters are so well portrayed and the action is just from beginning to end.”
In fact, Midsummer might have so many continuous thrills and surprises that one won’t want it to stop, but no matter, because stopping isn’t even an option in this production. According to Houle, the 95 minute play will have no intermission in order to keep the momentum of the play going.
With the endless work put into the play, the cast and crew has done all they can to make their A Midsummer Night’s Dream a reality.
Presentation’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will open on Saturday March 15.