Don't Fear the Bard

It's been a very busy week for those of us working on A Midsummer Night's Dream and it was capped off beautifully with the unveiling of our building banner at Chicago Street and the lovely billboard that went up on 130. As the painter of the image for the show it was awesome because I don't think I've ever seen one of my illustrations recreated that large before. The other thing it signified for me, as the director of the play, is that in less than thirty days we'll be presenting this classic work in Central Park Plaza.

For the past two weeks we've been rehearsing and doing rough blocking for the show. Blocking is the movement and the pictures a director creates with the actors when staging the production. The goal for Steve, Mary, and myself was to loosely block all of the various scenes in the play and familiarize the actors with their lines. Our large cast is made up of both seasoned actors and some new faces who haven't done as many productions.

As the actors have been working through their lines and movement for the show, we've been treated to the character development that is emerging. Despite the large size of this cast, my belief as a director is that all shows are really ensemble pieces. Everyone is important to the total look and feel of the production.

There are many challenges to directing Shakespeare. My previous encounters have been with Macbeth, As You Like It, and Julius Caesar. One of the biggest challenges is making it accessible to audiences because the language is so different from how we speak now. The way we've chosen to work with the text is by using a script published by Sparks Notes called No Fear Shakespeare. These editions of the play have the original Shakespearean text on the left hand page and the dialogue written as we would speak it now-a-days printed on the right. The theory for this is that if the actors know what they are saying, that they'll understand how to deliver it in the original form. Since Midsummer is a comedy, we as performers really have to "get the joke" to play the humor.

Another challenge we face is cutting the show to be a reasonable length. Many of the Bard's plays are five acts and run over three hours. Because we'll be outdoors at the park we have to trim the show to a 100 minute presentation to make sure we keep our audience's attention. We've begun this process by cutting lines and speeches that aren't integral to the plot and keeping the pace of our transitions between scenes to a minimum.

Hopefully this gives you some idea of what our rehearsal process has been up until now. Work has also begun on creating the "traveling" set for the production that will be used both at the park and once the show returns to Chicago Street Theatre to finish its run on July 20th. That's all for now.

-Eric [Brant, Director]