October 27, 2003

Theater Emory falls into modern Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Brian Green

William Shakespeare’s classic comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream is re-imagined as a modern, urban fairytale in Theater Emory’s upcoming production set to run Oct. 30–Nov. 8.

Directed by Lisa Paulsen, lecturer in theater studies, the play’s characters begin in the fast-paced, efficient and capitalism-driven world of high finance and travel through the surreal fairy-world of art and creativity, learning about themselves and each other along the way.

The concept of this update, which preserves Shakespeare’s original language, originally was conceived by Paulsen, who drew upon her own experience with city life and a desire to explore the play in a new, contemporary and relevant way.

"I saw the play as speaking to the various ‘worlds’ that exist in a modern city but which rarely cross," Paulsen said. "I wanted to explore what happens when those worlds collide, and what they each can learn from one another."

The play’s privileged, somewhat naive main characters (Theseus and members of his court in Athens, Greece) are reimagined as inhabitants of the Fortune 500 world of corporate acquisitions, high finance and information-era prosperity, while the "mechanicals" or townspeople of the original are envisioned as the industrial, technological and Internet-savvy workers that keep the corporate machine running.

The fairies, whose forest is the centerpiece of the play, are reconceived as a mix of outrageous couture and artistic hipness—a sort of artistic underworld into which the lovers and the mechanicals unwittingly stumble. The cast includes a mix of Emory students, faculty and professionals, including Shannon Eubanks as Titania, Judge Luckey as Oberon, James Donadio as Bottom and Larry Larson as Quince.

The production design will include a significant amount of fantastical costuming, especially among the fairies, whose urbane, cyberpunk look aims to capture the mysterious otherworldliness of the characters in totally new ways. Production designer Leslie Taylor, associate professor of theater studies, drew from diverse sources ranging from Rene Magritte and the surrealists to modern corporate architecture to create a design that juxtaposes the rigid rationality of Athens with the carefree energy of the forest in startling and surprising ways.

"I wanted to capture the beauty of both the rational and chaotic worlds created by Shakespeare and see how the two could be brought together onstage in ways that emphasize the beauty of each," Taylor said. "That way, we could see how these worlds are not mutually exclusive, but mutually beneficial."

Performance dates and times for Midsummer Night’s Dream are: Oct. 28 & 29, 8 p.m. (half-priced previews); Oct. 30 & 31, Nov. 1 and 6–8, 8 p.m.; Nov. 2 and 8, 2 p.m. An Artists Up Close discussion with the actors will follow the Nov. 2 performance. On Halloween night, students are encouraged to dress up in fantastical consumes to join the world of the fairies. The most creative costume will win a prize.

General admission is $15; $12 for faculty, staff and discount groups; and $6 for Emory students. Tickets can be purchased through the Arts at Emory Box Office at 404-727-5050 or online at www.emory.edu/ARTS/.