Fireside Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By Hessy Sanders
Fireside Shakespeare presented their first show in their new venue: the Rose Theater, located on the Rose Terrace lawn on the Mary Baldwin University campus. The production, directed by MFA student, Rosemary Armato, took place Sunday, October 4th and Monday, October 5th, 2020. Audience members sat on preset blankets laid on the grass with a few reserved lawn chairs closer to the stage. Director Armato stated in the program for Midsummer that this was a production for 2020 by featuring “lovers who can’t touch, a city that must question the morality of its policies, ‘essential workers’ who want to make art, and fairies with a fascination for the mortal world.” By attending the performance and participating in the talkback that took place afterward, the performance confirmed that this was indeed a play representative of our time.
The show’s aesthetic choices were the tip-off to joining Shakespeare’s world with ours. The Athenians dressed in an eclectic mix of Renaissance garb and modern trappings while the Mechanicals dressed as auto shop mechanics (i.e. essential workers). The choice for this eclectic concept was outlined in the dramaturg’s program note, by the show dramaturg, Emma Rose Kraus, in which she describes the differing origins for all the characters in the play.
The show also makes a point to represent different identities on the stage. The director and cast wanted to present a Shakespeare play that represented them: diverse in gender and sexual identities. To show this inclusion, Armato broke from stage tradition and cast the fairy king Oberon as a woman playing a woman. In this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oberon is a woman in relationship with a woman. When asked about this choice in the performance’s talkback, Armato and the actor playing Oberon, Natasia Reinhardt, stressed that representing queer identities was an important goal for this production. The audience saw this in other areas of the performance as well by the fairies’ and mechanicals’ ambiguous gender presentation.
Maneuvering CDC guidelines in the age of COVID-19 is certainly not easy work, as we are learning as performance artists in 2020. Fireside Shakespeare, however, staged a safe, entertaining performance for its cast and audience members. This production did well managing to perform a fun, timely play without compromising safety or quality.
Rosemary Armato: Director
Sarah Duttlinger English: Theseus, Moth, Combat Choreographer, Intimacy Choreographer
Summer England: Titania, Starveling, Music Director
Kara Headley: Peter Quince, Mustardseed, Asst. Stage Manager
Emily Hurst: Helena, Costume Designer
Mili Koncelik: Hermia
Emma Rose Kraus: Dramaturg
Madison Little: Snout, Peaseblossom, Prop Manager, Asst. Costumer
Spencer Mayo: Demetrius, Asst. Director
Abygail Merlino: Lysander, Asst. Costumer
Jeff Miller: Puck, Flute
Natasia Reinhardt: Oberon, Hippolyta, Dance Choreographer
Amanda M. Rogus: Snug, Cobweb, Egeus, Stage Manager, Dramaturg
Jason Steffen: Nick Bottom, Music Director