ActorsNET of Bucks County production
March 6-22, 2015
Directed by Cheryl Doyle
Stage Manager - Kelly Allen
Lighting Design - Andrena Wishnie
Set Design - George Hartpence
Scenic Artist - Joe Kemp
" The result is a rather traditional production, enlivened greatly by a large, talented cast (23 speaking roles), some stunningly beautiful period costumes, gorgeous movements, and behold! One of the most satisfying Shakespeare shows in many years. "
"Now add a superb cast — led by the veteran couple George Hartpence and Carol Thompson, as Oberon, the Fairy King and his Queen, Titania. Both actors are so confident and powerful that the work is never in danger of losing focus."
'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
Princeton Packet TimeOff review:
By Stuart Duncan
DATE POSTED: Thursday, March 12, 2015 2:45 PM EDT
MANY directors of Shakespeare’s works find themselves compelled to change the playwright’s locations in apparent efforts to find new insights.
Thus we have had tragedies presented in the New York City subway, countless modern takes on Julius Caesar, and productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream set in the rain forest and a Japanese tea garden.
That’s not the case with the current staging by Actors’ NET of Bucks County at the Heritage Center in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. Director Cheryl Doyle has rather turned to immerse herself in the original famous illustrations of the play by Arthur Rackham.
Furthermore, she discovered that Mendelssohn wrote more than just the Wedding March when he composed incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the 19th century.
The result is a rather traditional production, enlivened greatly by a large, talented cast (23 speaking roles), some stunningly beautiful period costumes, gorgeous movements, and behold! One of the most satisfying Shakespeare shows in many years.
The central theme of the play is “a dream of Athens,” not an historical reality, but a commentary on magic and fairy life. As Ms. Doyle puts it: “an imaginary Athens, near an imaginary forest, in an imaginary period, a few centuries ago.”
Clearly what the author intended. Moreover, she then adds lovers running away to get married — simple chaps trying simply to put on a play that might please the court — and a ruler trying to enforce a silly rule enacted before he took over, exactly the sort of thing the playwright was writing about.
Now add a superb cast — led by the veteran couple George Hartpence and Carol Thompson, as Oberon, the Fairy King and his Queen, Titania. Both actors are so confident and powerful that the work is never in danger of losing focus.
Essentially this is a play of several parts: the fairy section, with the King and Queen challenging each other; the lovers, expertly played by Shawn Doremus, Andrew James Gordon, Elizabeth Rzasa and Maryalice Rubins-Topoleski who basically are manipulated throughout; “the rude mechanicals,” led by a stunning performance from C. Jameson Bradley as Bottom, the weaver. And all three groups under the authority of the Athenian Court, with the duke, Scott Karlin and his Queen, Susan Fowler more or less in charge.
And if that is not enough, we have in the middle of Act 3, one of Shakespeare’s immortal lines: “Lord what fools these mortals be.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues at The Heritage Center Theatre, 635 N. Delmorr Ave., Morrisville, Pennsylvania, through March 22. Performances: Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. For tickets and information, go to www.actorsnetbucks.org or call 215-295-3694.
Scholars estimate that A Midsummer Night‘s Dream was most likely written between 1595 and 1598. Some evidence that helps to date the play is the book Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury written in 1598 by Francis Meres in which when he praised several of Shakespeare‘s works including A Midsummer Night‘s Dream. Meres described himself as "Maister of Arte of both Universities," and he was quite favorable in his description of Shakespeare‘s writing abilities. Other evidence that helps to estimate the date when this play was written is found in the play itself: the lion and the wedding. The lion, which is the source of so much concern for the rustics, was probably inspired by a pamphlet published in 1594. It described a Scottish feast where plans to bring in a live lion for the evening‘s entertainment were canceled when the organizers realized that the ladies would be frightened by the beast. The wedding celebration at which most historians believe A Midsummer Night‘s Dream was first performed was that of Elizabeth Gray, goddaughter to Queen Elizabeth, in 1598, although this cannot be confirmed.
The sources of A Midsummer Night‘s Dream are scattered and diverse, probably derived from various bits of literature and popular oral tradition. The love story of Theseus and Hippolyta appears in Chaucer‘s Knight‘s Tale, and various facts about Theseus can be found in Sir Thomas North‘s translation of Plutarch‘s Lives. The tale of Pyramus and Thisbe is seen in Ovid‘s Metamorphoses.
The fairy lore is both traditional and literary in its sources. Tales of goblins and sprites were common enough in Elizabethan England. Indeed, Shakespeare most likely heard stories of Robin Goodfellow while growing up in Stratford-upon-Avon. Oberon, the King of the Fairies, had already appeared in Spenser‘s Faerie Queene and in other stage and literary works. Though the source for the name Titania is not clear, the other fairies (Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, etc.) were most likely named from Shakespeare‘s imagination. For the rustics, Shakespeare seems to have drawn from his own memory of the yokels and craftsmen he had known in Stratford, or the artisans he had observed in the byways of London.
A Midsummer Night‘s Dream first appeared in print in the First Quarto, prepared from the actors‘ rehearsal scripts, which included only the individual actor‘s cues and lines. There is little difference between this printing and the play‘s appearance in the First Folio, a collection of almost all of Shakespeare‘s plays printed in 1623, seven years after the Bard‘s death.
A Midsummer Night‘s Dream has had a long and interesting stage history. Its popularity in Shakespeare‘s day is not clearly known, but the title page of the First Quarto gives us an estimation. It declares that it had been ―sundry times publicly acted.‖ The play was also a favorite in the nineteenth century, when, as one reviewer excitedly stated, it was performed in London "with real rabbits."‖ Parts of the plot have been used for ballets and operas, and the play has inspired great painters and musicians for centuries. Possibly the most well-known "Dream-inspired"‖ piece of work is Mendelssohn‘s Wedding March,‖ which was written in the early nineteenth century to introduce Act V of a performance of A Midsummer Night‘s Dream. It is still a popular piece of music, now most often played as a recessional at weddings.
Hermia and Lysander by John Simmons
Bottom with an Ass's Head by Lucy Fitch Perkins
Considered Shakespeare‘s most successful and popular comedy, A Midsummer Night‘s Dream has something for everyone. From the elegance of the Athenian court to the lowbrow antics of the craftsmen, from passion-filled plights of the lovers to the mischievous pranks of the fairies, Midsummer is sure to please audiences of all ages. Midsummer is the most produced of Shakespeare‘s plays and, some say, is in performance somewhere in the world every week of the year. In creating this hilariously raucous, and sometimes wonderfully moving play, Shakespeare pulled from many diverse sources: merging Greek history and legends, Western European folk-lore, and his personal observation of the English country life into one tightly woven roller-coaster ride of a production.
At the heart of the play are issues of love and marriage. The play‘s title harkens to a season when love classically abounds. "Midsummer madness" was actually a colloquial phrase referring to someone sick with love, and the play can be seen as a celebration of love in its many forms. Shakespeare presents youthful love through his depiction of the young lovers and their adventures in the woods. We see an adult take on the issue through Duke Theseus and his captive Amazon bride-to-be, Hippolyta. Titania and Oberon represent a more matured period in love‘s longevity; a long-wed couple struggling with their less than perfect relationship.
Like many of Shakespeare‘s plays, there is a drive to eliminate chaos and to restore the order of the world to its natural harmony. At the opening of the play, Hermia is forced to choose between death and marrying a man she does not love. Helena desperately seeks the love of a man who now refuses her. We shortly thereafter see Titania and Oberon feuding over the custody of a magical Indian child. Their long-standing feud, we discover, is the source of great natural disasters in the world.
Through the course of the play, the already uprooted world sinks farther into disarray – often comic disarray, but disarray nonetheless. When the chaos reaches its peak, Shakespeare magically resolves the dilemmas and returns the world to a state of blissful harmony. Oberon and Titania's feud has ended, the young lovers are free to wed, and (as in most Elizabethan comedies), the play ends with a wedding – or, in this case, three weddings. Harmony and order has returned to the world once again.
Midsummer's Eve by Edward Robert Hughes
The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania by Joseph Noel Paton
Lysander loves Hermia, and Hermia loves Lysander. Helena loves Demetrius; Demetrius used to love Helena but now loves Hermia. Egeus, Hermia's father, prefers Demetrius as a suitor, and enlists the aid of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, who is about to wed the Amazon queen - Hippolyta - to enforce his wishes upon his daughter. According to Athenian law, Hermia is given four days to choose between Demetrius, life in a nunnery, or a death sentence. Hermia, ever defiant, chooses to escape with Lysander into the surrounding forest.
Complications arise in the forest. Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of Fairies, are locked in a dispute over a boy whom Titania has adopted. Oberon instructs his servant Puck to bring him magic love drops, which Oberon will sprinkle on the Queen's eyelids as she sleeps, whereupon Titania will fall in love with the first creature she sees upon awakening. Meanwhile, Helena and Demetrius have also fled into the woods after Lysander and Hermia. Oberon, overhearing Demetrius's denouncement of Helena, takes pity upon her and tells Puck to place the magic drops upon the eyelids of Demetrius as well, so that Demetrius may fall in love with Helena. Puck, however, makes the mistake of putting the drops on the eyelids of Lysander instead. Helena stumbles over Lysander in the forest, and the spell is cast; Lysander now desires Helena and renounces a stunned Hermia.
In the midst of this chaos, a group of craftsmen are rehearsing for a production of "Pyramus and Thisbe," to be played for the Duke at his wedding. Puck impishly casts a spell on Bottom to give him the head of a donkey. Bottom, as luck would have it, is the first thing Titania sees when she awakens; hence, Bottom ends up being lavishly kept by the Queen. Oberon enjoys this sport, but is less amused when it becomes apparent that Puck has botched up the attempt to unite Demetrius and Helena. Oberon himself anoints Demetrius with the love potion and ensures that Helena is the first person he sees; however, Helena understandably feels that she is now being mocked by both Demetrius and Lysander (who is still magically enamored of her).
Finally, Oberon decides that all good sports must come to an end. He puts the four lovers to sleep and gives Lysander the antidote for the love potion so that he will love Hermia again when they all wake up. Next, Oberon gives Titania the antidote, and the King and Queen reconcile. Theseus and Hippolyta then discover Lysander, Hermia, Helena, and Demetrius asleep in the forest. All return to Athens to make sense of what they think is a strange dream. Likewise, Bottom returns to his players, and they perform "Pyramus and Thisbe" at the wedding feast (which has since become a wedding of three couples). As everyone retires, fairies perform their blessings and Puck delivers a tender epilogue soliloquy.
George Hartpence as Oberon & Carol Thompson as Titania
George Hartpence as Oberon & Wren Workman as Puck
June 6 - 15, 2002
@ Washington Crossing Open Air Theater
directed by Frank Erath
at the Lincoln Center NYC - Courtyard & Lobby
Directed by Janet Quartarone
as an entertainment for a presentation of the ballet
At least I can say I played at the Lincoln Center!!!
George Hartpence as Oberon & Kathy Garafano as Puck
Tom Orr (center) as Bottom & George Hartpence (right seated) as Oberon
Kathy Garafano (far left) as Puck & Janet Quartarone and Tom Orr (left) as Titania and Bottom
Tom Orr as Bottom & Janet Quartarone as Titania