Bestor Plaza, Lakeside Park, Riverwalk, Allen Park and Southern Tier Brewing Company: These seemingly ordinary locales will shortly shift into the verdant forests of ancient Greece as the Chautauqua Theater Company spreads Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to various venues across Chautauqua County.
This season marks CTC’s second year staging a traveling Shakespeare production. Last year they took As You Like It on the road to connect people from all over the area with the artistic community at Chautauqua.
The company is doubling down on its roving presentation of Shakespeare’s works this year by bringing A Midsummer Night’s Dream to more venues than last year’s show and improving production elements, like consistent microphones for actors, all while keeping the shows free for all to see.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens at 4 p.m. today (June 25) on Bestor Plaza, and will visit venues across Chautauqua County throughout the next month.
CTC Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy said the company has learned from its experience last season, and that each venue gives them the chance to put on a slightly different show.
“It’s grown from last year, it’s more stable,” Corporandy said. “We are adding some performances and a new venue at the Riverwalk, because it’s just so much fun watching it outside. Whether it’s at Southern Tier with a beer in your hand or on Bestor Plaza with children around you, every show is a little different.”
CTC will bring A Midsummer Night’s Dream to life through the elegant costumes of the forest fairies, the comedic exploits of the four beguiled lovers, and, for the first time in the company’s history, a modern translation of the play’s text.
The play will follow the four Athenian youths Demetrius, Lysandre, Hermia and Helena, played by conservatory actors Rishan Dhamija, Alexander De Vasconcelos Matos, Courtney Stennett and Elizabeth Erb respectively, as they vie for each other’s affection in a dream-like forest filled with fairy inhabitants.
For this show, the traditional English of Shakespeare’s plays has been updated slightly thanks to a project undertaken by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with the goal of making the historic plays more accessible.
“This is an interesting experiment,” said Midsummer director Sarah Wansley. “This (translation) allows us to experience Shakespeare in ways that foreign audiences might hear it when it’s translated into their language, which is just a little bit tweaked to make it more accessible.”
The play will also feature some contemporary flourishes alongside the updated language. For instance, after Thesius, the Duke of Athens, admonishes his subjects for acting melancholic in his presence, he sings a line from “Get The Party Started” by P!nk.
These references will merge with the modern verse to create a light, upbeat show with the backbone and heart of a traditional Shakespeare adaptation. According to CTC leadership, audiences can expect an energetic rendition of one of Shakespeare’s most lighthearted plays.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while significantly less tragic than the majority of Shakespeare’s other works, is not afraid to take a stab or two at addressing important issues.
CTC conservatory actor Kayla Kearney, who plays the role of the mischievous fairy, Puck, said the show gives audiences a chance to examine the role love can play in our lives.
“I like how it calls into question love and lust, and how young love can be intense and passionate, as well as how ridiculous society’s rules and laws can be when imposed on our idea of what love is and what’s okay,” Kearney said.
Regardless of whether audiences are looking for an introspective look at the intricacies of love or simply seeking an entertaining escape, Wansley is confident that the show will step up to the challenge.
“This show gets away from any idea of Shakespeare being old or boring or something you fall asleep to,” Wansley said. “This outdoor Shakespeare is very alive.”