Into the woods with the dream at Island Shakespeare Festival

Posted in Feature, Festivals, Theater and Dance

August 2, 2012

Bristol Bloom plays Titania and Ken Martinez takes the role of Oberon in the Island Shakespeare Festival production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opening Saturday, Aug. 4 in Clinton.

BY PATRICIA DUFF, Whidbey Art Source Editor

Leave reason on the road and enter the woods of a dark dream.

But be prepared to laugh, too, because this dream is funny.

Island Shakespeare Festival opens its third season with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by festival founder Rose Woods at the Story House Stage in Clinton. The play opens Saturday, Aug. 4 and runs through Aug. 26.

Shakespeare had no delusions about the rationality of plot in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” one of his most popular and widely produced plays. In fact, the play has three interlocking plots connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta, and is set mainly in the woods in the realm of the fairies under the light of the moon.

Puck, servant to Oberon, king of the fairies, is the driving force around which the play moves. This mischievous sprite causes plenty of upheaval, spurred as he is by his own insatiable desire for fun, as well as by an argument between his master and the queen of the fairies, Titania.

Oberon woos his Titania in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

Potions are dispersed, lovers are star-crossed, a hilariously-acted amateur theatrical is produced and an immoderate and over-confident weaver by the name of Bottom ends up with the head of a donkey. The play is full of enchantment, mistakes, wild fantasy and the grotesque.

Titania falls in love with Bottom (Andy Fling), who takes on the head of an ass, thanks to Puck.

Eventually, Puck will ask for a break from judgment:

Think but this and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding than a dream

Here’s some advice: yield to the dream.

In this fairy-infused Athenian wood under the moony light of night, emotion and fantasy take over. Perception is distorted by love, and other magic, and every human is susceptible to all of it. Fantasy and imagination, Shakespeare seems to be saying, influences how one behaves in the world, regardless of what rules are laid down.

In this topsy-turvy world of dreams, these characters give up all control to forces greater than themselves, whether they want to or not. Helena loves Demetrius, and Demetrius, who once loved Helena, thinks he loves Hermia, whom Hermia’s father wants him to marry. But Hermia really really loves Lysander, who is madly in love with Hermia, but then ends up in hot pursuit of Helena, thanks to Puck, that rascal.  Demetrius stalks into the woods after his intended bride Hermia and her lover, Lysander, while Helena follows behind him. Anything can happen here; just accept it.

Shakespeare warns his audience about the untamed arrow of love through Helena in Act I:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind:
Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgement taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

In her program notes, Woods talks about the nature of the play and its dreams.

“There is something about the world being out of balance until the magic of the forest wraps around the confused lovers and rustic actors, drawing them deeper into the enchanted woods in a frolicsome romp that eventually leads to harmony, that utterly delights me,” the director wrote.

Oberon looks on while Titania plays the fool in love with an ass.

Harmony does win out; it is a comedy after all, despite all its delicious darkness. In fact, it could be argued that there is not a better play in his entire canon in which to introduce a child to the works of William Shakespeare. Let it be said that “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the way into the heart of a future theater lover.

The cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” includes Bristol Bloom, Ken Martinez, Gabe Harshman, Miles Harrison, Valerie Huntington, K. Olena Hodges, Rob Harrison, Kent Junge, David Mayer, Shelley Hartle, Andy Fling, Cameron Gray, Melanie Lowey, Ahna Dunn-Wilder and  Kathryn Brooks. Costume design is by Julie Cunha; Aaron Simpson composed the original music for the show; Rod Stewart is technical and set director; and the stage manager is Kathleen Landel.
Island Shakespeare Festival shows are free.

Bring the family, a blanket, or a lawn chair and a picnic dinner, dress in layers and get comfortable. Curtain is at 5 p.m. sharp on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays Aug. 4-26. Arrive one half hour in advance for the best seating.

The Story House Stage is located at 6449 Old Pietila Road in Clinton.

Visit for more info or call 360-221-1710.


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