Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan



A Midsummer Night's Dream - Stratford Festival

A Midsummer Night's Dream begins previews at the Festival Theatre - Stratford Festival

Last season, Chris Abraham's production of Othello held audiences spellbound at the Avon Theatre; this year, A Midsummer Night's Dream marks his first time directing a Shakespeare play on the renowned thrust stage of the Festival Theatre. Previews begin on Thursday, May 15, and the production opens on Saturday, May 31.

Set within the framework of a contemporary celebration of marriage, the stage will transform into a Stratford backyard at twilight as wedding guests surprise the happy couple with a special gift: an open-air, one-night-only performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Stephen Ouimette takes on the comic role of Bottom, while Evan Buliung and Jonathan Goad share the roles of Titania and Oberon. The cast also features Bethany Jillard as Hermia, Chick Reid as Puck, Liisa Repo-Martell as Helena, Tara Rosling as Lysander, Mike Shara as Demetrius and Scott Wentworth as Theseus.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is notable, among other things, for its hilarious last-act scene in which the "mechanicals" present a command performance of the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe, a story which inspired Mr. Abraham's overall concept for this production.

"It moves me to see how one of the world's oldest love stories has gone on to have such a powerful impact on the world," says Mr. Abraham. "'Pyramus and Thisbe' was written around 8 AD but is in fact much older. It is a source for not only this play but also for Romeo and Juliet. It is also the prototype for many others. In looking at the play now, I see a powerful connection between this 'source' about forbidden love and the tremendous and ongoing transformation of our society to one that embraces freedom of choice in love. I'm struck by how much has changed since Shakespeare's day, even though lovers around the world still face tremendous obstacles to be with and marry those they love.

"This prompted me to think about the struggle for equal rights for same-sex couples. In this struggle I saw a powerful and living connection between Shakespeare's time and our own, embodied in a long line of those who have persevered against all odds to be with the ones they love. I wanted to celebrate this struggle and its transformative power. I also wanted to celebrate a new normal - one that is increasingly, well, normal. I choose to believe that Shakespeare would have it no other way and that he is here (in spirit) celebrating love and its transformations with us."

In keeping with this season's theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge, this play explores the joy and heartache of love in all of its many splendid variations.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that we all know and love, and have probably seen many times before," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, "yet Chris brings a refreshing interpretation, breathing new life into this beloved story. His consistently inventive staging and playful, affectionate approach make for a magical combination. This is sure to be a terrific evening out at the theatre: a joyous, heartfelt celebration of love."

Artistic credits include Designer Julie Fox, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Composer and Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Dramaturge Toby Malone, Movement Director Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

Mr. Abraham's production is one of two interpretations of A Midsummer Night's Dream being presented this season. Director Peter Sellars takes on an equally adventurous tack with the play, using four actors to explore the multiple worlds of Shakespeare's play. It is the first time the Festival has programmed two versions of the same play in one season.

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