With fairies, mechanicals, and love affairs, William Shakespeare will make a return to Beloit College Theatre through a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening Thursday (April 24) and running through May 3.
Directed by Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts John Kaufmann, the performance will mark the return of Shakespeare to Beloit after a 21-year dry spell from the Elizabethan classics.
The last Shakespearean play documented in the Beloit College Archives was in the spring of 1993 when the college mounted a production of Much Ado About Nothing.
This time lapse was enough for Kaufmann to take action. When it came down to making a decision on which Shakespearean classic to recreate, A Midsummer Night’s Dream attracted Kaufmann because of its comedic nature and the accessibility to the audience.
“It is such a fun play with a delightfully clear plot that audiences recognize and really gets across the beauty of Shakespeare,” he says.
Kaufmann also hopes that the performance will convey his interpretation of the conflicting worlds Shakespeare crafts in the piece.
“For me, my main idea is taking the rigidity of the rules and the masculine structure in the first part of the play and connecting it with the more feminine, fairy world, and finding a way to really synthesize and bring those two into harmony. The audience then can find their own consensus because we have all a masculine and feminine side in us,” Kaufmann says.
In true liberal arts fashion, Kaufmann was inspired by the way the play could incorporate a variety of disciplines and areas of the college.
“Doing these classic plays opens up so many doors to different disciplines--Shakespeare opens windows into poetry, into history, into culture and ideally into our own humanity today in a way that is so rich,” says Kaufmann.
In addition to a 21-person cast, the largest Kaufmann has worked with at Beloit; he has also developed a transformational works course revolving around the play. In this course, each student has some connection with the production--whether that is being part of the cast, working on publicity, creating costumes or through another medium. The class has been meeting all semester and completing a series of assignments that are centered on the production.
“I’ll be honest that some of the things that students are writing in their homework have been inspiring me,” says Kaufmann. “[The class] reminds me of all the different lenses from which we can view the play. I even had a professor from the physics department the other day telling me about the astronomy and lunar references in the play and its connection to the sciences.”
Media Studies student Hakim Pinklyn’14 is in the course. Pinklyn has been working extensively with the publicity for the production. This includes managing the play’s Instagram page (@midsummernights_beloit) that will feature behind-the-scene glimpses and bloopers.
“The Midsummer's class is really a great experience in conjunction with the play. As a member of the class you take part in labs that also help with the production and enhance the experience of the play [for the audience],” says Pinklyn.
Overall, Kaufmann hopes that his production will not only be a complete composition of creative minds across fields, but a full experience for the audience. “I’m hoping that from the moment that the audience comes into the theater the world that partly the class and the designers have created will infect them and it will be a contagious environment,” he says. “It will take them to another world.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will run this Thursday through Friday and May 1-May 3, with all performances starting at 8 p.m. in the Neese Theatre. For tickets, call the box office at ext. 2755 between 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Box office opens at 7 p.m. on show nights.