Midsummer Night’s Dream gets a fantastical overhaul in Summerville 

Steampunk Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that virtually every theater virtuoso or casual fan or high school student has seen, done, or studied. However, director Sean Lakey of the Flowertown Players has no intention of giving you the same old Midsummer you've seen a dozen times.

The production concept for the most recent Summerville performance is deeply rooted in steam punk, where Victorian-age steam power meets the hi-tech world. Thanks to the turning cogs and wheels that adorn the set, the whole thing resembles an old factory, while wires and goggles and machine components are parts of the costumes.

The style is reminiscent of recent Hollywood fare like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and the upcoming Sucker Punch. Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy, both by filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro, served as artistic templates for the production style Lakey has chosen. Everything is done in a cartoonish style, but with a darker feel. The donkey and lion head pieces that appear during the play-within-the-play look like robotic representations of animals.

According to Lakey, the auditions drew the biggest turnout Flowertown has ever seen. The 25-person cast is made up of seasoned actors who play the principles and newcomers who fill in the ensemble. "We've had 15 volunteers just on costumes alone, another 15 or so on set alone. All in all, about 100 people will have worked on this show," says Lakey of the massive undertaking that Midsummer is becoming.

Of course, having such a large cast includes its own set of complications, like the need for separate rehearsals for the actors. The cast was divided into rehearsal times based on scenes, meaning the fairies rehearsed together, the lovers, etc. Actress Adrianne Dukes, who plays Puck in the production, participated in several different rehearsals since the playful pan interacts with more characters. Interestingly, it wasn't until recently that the entire cast was brought together all at once for the first time.

To further create the feel of a fantastical world, Lakey brought in a magician to teach actual magic tricks to some of the actors. I've seen a few Midsummers but never one where any of the fairies did actual magic. This show also features fog and flames, as well as an eye-catching yet functioning set design. Ultimately, this production promises to deliver the kind of visual stimuli that will draw the audience into the world of magic that the characters inhabit.

As many of you know, Midsummer Night's Dream is a story of mistaken identity and crisscrossed love. Lysander and Hermia love each other, Demetrius loves Hermia, and Helena loves Demetrius. The four find themselves lost in the woods, where they fall prey to Puck, a mischievous fairy. Puck's master, Oberon, is at odds with his fairy queen Titania. The fairy queen comes across a loud-mouthed actor named Bottom, who is turned into a donkey by magic.

For the Flowertown Players, Midsummer Night's Dream was on the short list of Shakespearean plays they wanted to perform, and it ultimately won out over The Tempest. Both of those plays were considered because they have happier endings than many of Shakespeare's other well-known plays. That was important to Lakey. He wanted the audience to leave in a good mood, instead of with their heads down — we're looking at you Hamlet.

All in all, Lakey is excited about the upcoming production. He hopes that a successful run of Midsummer will lead to more Shakespeare productions at Flowertown. The show is testing the waters a bit, but what a way for them to get their feet wet.

And for those of you who have seen A Midsummer Night's Dream before, Flowertown promises you one you haven't.

Michael Smallwood is currently appearing in PURE Theatre's Superior Donuts.


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