web analytics

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Interview

Theseus and Hippolyta look for a reason to celebrate thirty years of marriage. Their son, Peter Quince, has been disowned for becoming a playwright. Their daughter, Constance, who married a rat catcher, has also been disowned. King Oberon and Queen Titania struggle over how to raise the changeling child. Should he run wild in the forest or be coddled and spoiled? The four lovers find, lose and find one another again in the forest. Meanwhile the local tradesmen rehearse their “tragical” play with exuberant earnestness.

We had a chance to ask Janet Schlapkohl, who adapted the play, a few questions about the show:

Why did you decide to do Shakespeare after a number of years of your own original work?

For the past five years the summer shows have had a theme which suggested they were happening during a County Fair. For example, Love at the County Fair, Mystery at the County Fair and most recently, Trublesome Tymes at the Faire, set in Renaissance England. I became interested in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but wanted adapt the script to make it unique. I have never written an adaptation, so that was also a goal!

How is this adaptation different from the original?

Shakespearean scholars will notice the altered meter, and changes in the use of blank verse. Also, there are additional characters and some original characters have altered roles. There are changes within relationships. For example, in the original, Theseus and Hippolyta are newlyweds. In this version, Theseus and Hippolyta are celebrating thirty years of marriage; or rather, looking for a reason to celebrate. In the adaptation, they have children. Their son, who now calls himself Peter Quince has been disowned for becoming a playwright. Their daughter was disowned for marrying the rat catcher.

Audiences will recognize many original lines, yet sometimes they are voiced by different characters. The struggle over the changeling child, between the Fairy King and Queen is a quarrel about parenting styles. There was enough in the original to suggest this, so I pushed it further.

“King Oberson would have the child and let him run the forests, wild.”
“Queen Titania will coddle and destroy all that is noble about the boy.”

In this adaptation, most relationships are impacted by children. Finally, in the Fairy Kingdom there is a division between Sprites and Fairies, the followers of Oberon and Titania. Members of this Fairy Kingdom are working fairies and sprites and dress accordingly. There is enough of the original that those who love that version should feel satisfied.

Will it be done promenade style where the audience moves to different locations on the farm? If so, which locations?

Yes, and with some of the same locations and also a new area. The audience may sit in the woods or on the grass just outside looking down into them. Several scenes take place there. This should be a very exciting aspect of being in an outdoor theatre.

puck

The casting of Scott Strode as Puck jumped out at me – he’s considerably older than one would expect for the character – what are you hoping to get from Puck as played by Scott?

Yes, it sort of jumped out at Scott too! Correct, Shakespeare’s Puck is an older boy, generally played by a young man. That casting, however also changes the relationship between Oberon and Puck. I wanted to view couples at each stage of their relationship. I had these categories in mind; First Love, Married with Children, Parents of Adult Children, Retired Grandparents. Fairies and Sprites are eternal, timeless. So, Scott Strode as Puck, is the oldest Sprite. He plays opposite Evie Stanskie as Cobweb, the oldest Fairy. They have a bantering relationship that is charming and disarming. And both have more than enough playfulness or sprightliness (ha ha) to carry their roles.

Iowa Theater Interview with Janet Schlapkohl, July 8, 2015

 

Location is Everything

The conventions of live theatre are clear. We enter a theatre and then sit quietly in the dark, as actors illuminated by stage lights create a story for us. There’s usually an intermission where we partake of a cookie or perhaps a glass of wine. This is what we know, what is familiar. But sometimes theatre is different. Perhaps you bring your own

chair to a grassy field where a stage has been built and watch a show as the sun sets behind the actors. Or maybe you’re outdoors but this time, you move from one location to another on a farm, each new place bringing a new scene of a classic play. Or perhaps you’re invited to a party and you’re sitting at one of the many round tables scattered throughout the room, a hors d’oeuvre in one hand a glass of wine in the other, when suddenly a musical theatre experience begins, and you’re very much a part of the show.

This has been my summer. First I experienced an excellent production of Our Town at the outdoor stage at Brucemore. A couple of weeks later, I enjoyed Combined Efforts’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted by Janet Schlapkohl, which was promenade theatre at its best. And just last week, I enjoyed Company at the North Ridge Pavlion, staged by Chris Okiishi and Patrick Dulaney for their friends, and featuring an incredible cast of talented actors. All three shows were unique theatre experiences, and demonstrate that risk taking is alive and well in our little theatre community.

I wrote about Our Town here, so I won’t say much more other than to emphasize how the outdoor venue allows for a greater feeling of camaraderie among the audience members. There was a sense of playfulness among us, as we set up chairs and blankets and prepared to watch the show. It was such a contrast to traditional brick and mortar theaters, with their rows of seats, all perfectly in line, raked just so. And no slouching – sit straight, you ruffian, you are in the THE-A-TRE! What a different feeling Our Town‘s audience had as they lounged on blankets, perhaps resting a head on a companion’s shoulder as George and Emily slowly discovered their feelings for each other.

 

Combined Efforts’ show was a joy. The audience visited three separate locations on the farm in this clever adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic comedy. The actors were excellent, hitting the comedic beats without ever being obnoxious, creating a fun theatre experience for the audience and participants alike. Unconventional casting choices also elevated the show. For example, the character of Puck is usually played by a young man, but for this show the much older Scott Strode created a world weary and very knowing Puck, breathing new life into a familiar character.

Something wonderfully simple happens during promenade theatre that is intrinsic to moving to different locations during a performance – conversation. As we moved to the wooded area for the second group of scenes, audience members chatted about what they’d seen and what they expected would come next. Again, a sense of camaraderie permeated the audience, as one made space for another on a log and another chuckled at a witty comment. Rather than sitting in silence in a darkened theatre, this audience was engaged – with the show, with the environment, and with each other. Promenade theatre emphasizes the ‘community’ in the term community theatre.

Schalkohl’s clever adaptation keeps all of the story we’re familiar with – Titania and Oberon fighting over the changeling boy, the mechanicals creating a play, and the love quadrangle – but slices it down to a comfortable hour and a half. The second setting we travel to is the best – the actors act among trees, green all around them. They climb over and around the living set. As these scenes take place in a forest, there’s a verisimilitude to the show that wouldn’t be possible on a traditional stage. Combined Efforts does a summer show every year at the farm. If you missed Midsummer, be sure to get on their email list so you don’t miss next year’s show!

Matt Falduto, Iowa TheatreAugust 19, 2015