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Dance by the Light of the Moon: Behind the Scenes of Storyteller Theatre's: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

To live and die - to be or not to be - that is not the question. It is the answer we all must face someday. However, even four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare's works have not died, but continue to 'be'. The legend of his death is unknown, but suspected to have occurred on (or near) his birthday. Thought the exact date (or circumstances) are undetermined it is legendized that Shakespeare fell ill and died after drinking with friends - April 23rd, 1616.


While schools all over the world continue to teach students about Shakespeare, if you ask those students if they enjoy Shakespeare, they will tell you 'no'. I know far more people who vehemently hate the Bard more than they enjoy his works. I used to be one of them.


Look: Shakespeare can be boring. I think that is because people misunderstand him which is not hard to do. Shakespeare's plays are not meant to be read; they are meant to be seen and heard! Shakespeare's plays on-stage have the ability to come alive with wit, drama, music, color, and real-world themes. Truly, William Shakespeare wrote for the every man. Nobility and paupers alike, he made sure his stories were accessible to all classes of people. Then, when audiences gathered to watch the plays, they found themselves represented onstage. He was a man ahead of his time.


The cost to attend a show at the Globe cost 6 pence - a penny! One penny was the price for a loaf of bread. I wonder why his shows always sold out....compare that to today's economy. It's disappointing to know that we have moved so far away from that type of accessibility.

However, that's a soap box I am not particularly interested in stepping on today. A story for another time.


What I am interested in is sharing some behind the scenes bits of our inaugural upcoming Shakespeare show - in honor of his birthday today. We are so excited to stage A Midsummer Night's Dream, July 26th-28th. We will be performing Midsummer at the Southmoore Performing Arts Center. This story continues to excite audiences after hundreds of years. We, personally, love it because of all of the possibility it holds!


I once heard somewhere that "art influences art". When we approach a project, we like to draw inspiration from many different sources. We have been planning A Midsummer Night's Dream since we were in quarantine during COVID. We spent a lot of time looking through books, watching Charlie Chaplin movies, reading different plays, and one thing we kept coming back to was setting Midsummer in this indeterminate place during the early 1900s.


We kept thinking about all of the different influences of the decade: music, dance, and fashion. Especially, the cultural backdrop of World War I. We thought about what influenced pop culture during this time through different art forms like ragtime and the early stages of jazz music. Theatrical storytelling such as magic shows, ventriloquism, and silent film. Art form styles such as Art Nouveau including Post-Impressionism, most specifically 'Starry Night' by Van Gogh. All of these influences will make their way into our production in some aspect.


We also spent a lot of time playing alongside our own son during the pandemic -- being invited into his own magical world of pretend play. We thought about that when adapting this piece. We felt innocence and childlike wonder was lacking from the many stagings of "Midsummer". Our production will feature a children's "ensemble". However, they are far from making up the background of this piece. The children are a large and integral part of the story - they are the story. The adults in the play (and the audience) are invited into their world. The children craft the story with their imaginations using classic storytelling techniques -- creative movement, found objects, music, and color. The children invite us all to "make believe", and question: are fairies real, or not, and if this was all--in fact, a dream?


We want our students to feel the joy of Shakespeare and live theatre. As always, our space is an environment for exploration and discovery. We believe in utilizing theatre + story as a bridge to higher learning. In this case, the students get to learn about not only the production process, but theatre history, history itself, English Language Arts, and different methods of the four fine arts (Drama, Music, Dance, and Visual Art).


The adult actors should be no stranger to pretend play. Hippolyta and Theseus will double as Titania & Oberon, coming alive as they don the roles of King & Queen of the Fairies for the children. The disobedient imp, Puck, will be an older student in the school (or is he?) who enjoys pulling pranks. He connects the audience to the imagined world as much as the real one.


The lovers are comprised of staff members from the school, who are goaded and encouraged by the students to fall in love -- whenever possible. And, finally, Nick Bottom is the overconfident and enthusiastic theatre teacher on staff who plans for the students to write and direct their own play for Theseus and Hippolyta. However, he and the children have their own power struggle when it comes to who actually gets the spotlight.


We're so glad Shakespeare lived, and we are so glad we have the great privilege to share old stories in new ways. We can't wait for you to step back in time with us this summer, and be enchanted into a midsummer night's dream.

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