River Campus to perform Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" April 21 through 30
Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus is bringing new life to Shakespeare's famous comedy about mismatched lovers.
His classic work, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," gets re-imagined in 1920s New Orleans, blending the vibrancy of the Jazz Age with the lasting humor and wit of Shakespeare's prose.
Director Bart Williams, Southeast assistant professor of theater, said the production is a unique opportunity to shake up the traditional Shakespearean expectations.
"The great thing is that [New Orleans] is a melting pot, so depending on what neighborhood you're in in New Orleans, you can do a lot."
Williams hopes the production will remove the preconceived notions associated with Shakespeare's work and focus on the fact that the story is truly a comedy.
"For me, the hard part with doing Shakespeare is that everyone in America thinks that it's a very British thing, that everyone's supposed to speak in proper, posh tones and Shakespeare never wrote for that [intent]. It didn't exist in his day," Williams said.
The show itself is based on a set of interconnecting plot lines joined together by the wedding of Duke Theseus and Amazonian Queen Hippolyta. Within these story lines, there are three major character groups. There are the young lovers: Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius; the mechanicals (performers): Nick Bottom, Peter Quince, Robin Starveling, Johann and Jaquenetta Snug; and the fairies: Oberon and Titania (king and queen of the fairies), Puck (the mischief-maker), and their subsequent fairies.
The lovers become mixed up in Oberon's manipulation of love through Puck, falling in love with each other's lovers and causing both tension and humor. Meanwhile, the mechanicals hope to perform for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta while the fairies wreak havoc on everyone else. When Puck mistakenly casts a love spell on unintended recipients, fate must play out as Oberon and Puck attempt to fix the problems caused.
Students in the show expressed their enthusiasm for the challenges and rewards the show has presented them with.
Junior Emmani Cunningham, who plays Titania, feels audiences will get much more than the typical Shakespearean experience.
"A lot of people are not a fan of Shakespeare, but we've put a really fun spin on a show that could be considered boring," Cunningham said. "We've got a great cast that knows how to have fun and connecting with each other is one of the best parts of the show [for me]."
Juniors Rebecca Hurt and Kaitlin Gant, who play fairies Mustardseed and Peaseblossom, share Cunningham's sentiments that the show is more than what it's typically given credit for.
"Most people don't see it as being as deep and meaningful as it really is," Hurt said. "It's actually really intellectual while still being funny."
Gant said the show has been unique and challenging for her.
"I've never done Shakespeare before," Gant said. "It's been a new experience for me."
However, Gant thinks even for those unfamiliar with Shakespeare, the show should be understandable and enjoyable.
"The good thing is that if you don't know Shakespeare, it shouldn't deter you from understanding our show… this is more than the typical Shakespeare production."
Performances will be at 7:30 p.m.on April 21 and 22 and April 26 through 29 with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. on April 23 and 30 in the Rust Flexible Theatre at the River Campus. Tickets are $18.50 for regular admission or $3 with a Southeast student ID.