If there was no such thing as sympathy
If there was no such thing as sympathy, empathy, or love in our world, it would be a hard place to live. If there was no hard law or reason in our world, it would be a crazy place to live. Neither of these worlds would be anybody’s first choice as a home – it’s just common sense take away either of these two fundamental aspects of life, and everything is immediately chaos. In fact, it is only in a world such as ours, where legal and human emotion work together, that we are happy. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare recognizes this truth and uses the two settings to represent the city of Athens as law, order, civility, and judgment, while the woods represent chaos, incivility, dreams, and love.
I had the pleasure of seeing one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, performed beautifully at the Tucker Theatre at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. This performance space looks more like an industrial warehouse than an art house, but walking in we are transformed to the magical land of Midsummer. I chose A Midsummer Night’s Dream play because its major theme is love. There is plenty of comedy to entice those who are not interested in love, and there are some fairies. Another theme is friendship. Friends and what they think and say are extremely important. Most will have had some experience of two friends liking the same person of the opposite sex and the difficulties that situation brings about. Is friendship stronger than love? Certainly that question is one explored in this play. Illusion versus reality is another theme I enjoyed looking into. It was the first time for me to attend a play at Middle Tennessee State University Theatre, I became fascinated to discover this huge theatre that contain 855 seats. I liked the navy curtain. The beautiful set, designed by designer Scott Boyd, was created completely out of recycled materials but has a distinct airiness that I wouldn’t expect from used tires and cans. The forest is made out of papier-mâché trees and cardboard rocks. Even a swing hangs from a branch and is used throughout the performance. The relative demographic that attended the show was mainly high school students and college students.
The themes of the play are dreams and reality, love and magic. This extraordinary play is a play-with-in-a-play, which master writers only write successfully. Shakespeare proves here to be a master writer. The audiences find it very pleasing to watch. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy combining elements of love, fairies, magic, and dreams.
Inside the beautiful set, a wonderful ensemble of actors plays. At the play’s start, Hermia (Alexa Pulley) is told by her father (Egeus) that she must marry a man whom she is not in love with (Demetrius), but who is in love with her. Lysander argues that he is as good of a match as Demetrius, but Egeus won’t listen. Instead, he declares that if Hermia won’t marry Demetrius, she will die: This is the law of Athens and his right as her father. Because of this threat, Hermia and her love, Lysander (Chris Anderson), make plans to escape to the forest and eventually be wed in another town. Helena (Kryslin Williams), Hermia’s unfortunate friend, is completely in love with the man who is wooing Hermia, who of course wants nothing to do with Helena. But they all escape into the enchanted forest, one couple following the other, and what ensues is pure hilarity. In addition to the lovers and fairies in the forest is a troupe of actors, led by Bottom (Justin Hand), who are preparing to perform in front of the king.
Theseus, duke of Athens, is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, with a four-day festival of pomp and entertainment. He commissions his Master of the Revels, Philostrate, to find suitable amusements for the occasion. In these same woods are two very different groups of characters. The first is a band of fairies, including Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, who has recently returned from India to bless the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. The second is a band of Athenian craftsmen rehearsing a play that they hope to perform for the duke and his bride
From the Duke’s palace, the scene switches to the cottage of Peter Quince (Johnathan Carter), a carpenter who directs a group of amateur actors in his free time. He has chosen the play “Pyramus and Thisbe” to perform for Theseus’ wedding and is in the process of casting roles. Nick Bottom, the weaver, is given the leading role of Pyramus, while Flute (Jay Mullens), the bellows-mender wins the female lead, Thisbe. The remainder of the roles are assigned, and the group plans to meet the following night at the Duke’s oak for a rehearsal — the same woods where Hermia and Lysander plan to meet on their flight from Athens.
Out in the forest, Oberon and Titania, king and queen of fairyland, have quarreled over who will raise an orphaned Indian boy. Oberon sends Puck to find a magic flower called love-in-idleness, the juice of which makes any person dote on the next person he or she sees. While Puck is out looking for this magical flower, Demetrius and Helena wander past Oberon. As usual, Demetrius insists Helena stop following him; he even vows to harm her if she doesn’t leave him alone. Taking pity on Helena, Oberon instructs Puck to put some love juice in Demetrius’ eyes at a moment when Helena will be the first person he sees upon waking. The juice only contains magic because the male lovers do not possess a fervent and true love. It is significant that Lysander and Demetrius change their minds about whom they love, but Hermia and Helena never waver; I think Shakespeare correlates faithfulness with gender. Demetrius wakes up and falls in love with Helena. After more dialogue and action, Theseus enters, the now properly-paired lovers are united, and everybody is happy. The humans wonder how much of the nights events have been real, and how much was a dream. The laborers perform their play-within-a-play. Although it’s bad, Theseus and the others appreciate the sincerity and effort.
The craftsmen give their play, which they think is wonderful. At midnight, the lovers go to sleep and Oberon and Titania, with their fairies, take over the palace. They dance, sing, bless the sleepers, and leave. Only Puck remains, to ask the audience for its forgiveness and approval and to urge it to remember the play as though it had all been a dream.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there are so many sets of characters and different lines of action that it’s hard to pin down just one protagonist. Each actor is worth noting, but standouts include Williams as Helena and Hand as Bottom. The comedic timing of each is impeccable, and their acting chops are undeniable. Its spectacle and its emphasis on dance, magic and song have led it to be interpreted and performed in a variety of ways.
On the other hand, the lighting effect was fascinating. Hundreds of light bulbs signified the forest through which the fairies appear on upturned umbrellas. They also created a world where everything was more colorful than in real life. I might say that their concept was true to the dream of the title where illusion and reality become confused. They created lake across which the fairies float and the flight through the night sky which takes me into The Boy’s bedroom. Obviously, the use of special effects allowed the production team greater scope to realize imaginative ideas.
The two-story wooden set was half of a wall of death and light conceptually played a role in defining the fairy world. They held or wore small clip-on lights to create movement and project shadows to read “fairy.” Puck, next up on the chain of command, wore his light effects; fiber optics were built into his Mohawk, and LEDs and glow paint served as trim for his costume. The lights for Oberon and Titania, as king and queen, were imbedded into their being. Oberon wore a nude, tattooed body suit with the illusion that the lights were part of his skin. Titania’s lights grew out of her hair and were imbedded into her skirt and opera length gloves. The degree to which lights were integrated into the costumes characterized the hierarchy in the fairy world.
Director Santiago Sosa has put together an amazing show with smooth scene changes, a clear focus, and a cohesiveness that is both impressive and unmatched. No actor pulls focus when they shouldn’t, and even the smallest of fairies is of the utmost importance. In addition, the lighting design of Darren Levin and the costume design of Tommy Macon enhance the show in their own ways. I can only describe the lighting as magical, with the beams of impeccably placed spotlights playing their own distinct parts in the show. The costumes are unique to each group of characters—fairies, lovers, and mechanicals—and everything complements each other.
In a Midsummer Night’s Dream, different plots are linked to form a comical play based around magic and love. The play is set in an enchanting forest amongst the cowslips hidden deep in the wood is the fairy kingdom. The play-within-a-play permits Shakespeare to provide commentary and inside jokes regarding stagecraft. I personally think that Shakespeare was very clever in how he devised A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he has three very good elements of entertainment love, magic and comedy represented with different stories and characters.
At the end, Puck reminds us that everyone will die, which is a nice conclusion. Oberon and Titania offer the real conclusion by promising that the characters are all busy (even while they speak) making babies, which is a good way to preserve yourself from death. Also, Oberon promises the couples will be happy and in love for the rest of their lives.
From another view, I saw a movie as another interpretation of this play. The movie directed by Michael Hoffman. So often, when books or plays get made into movies, the whole story is butchered, and the final outcome is uninteresting. This is not the case for A Midsummer-Nights Dream. The movie A Midsummer-Nights Dream was extremely well acted out, and had an entertaining plot that kept its viewers intrigued. Its plot was fun and dream-like that kept its viewers entertained. The story line and critical elements were well acted out exciting to follow. In both the movie and play, I have to say that my favorite character was Puck. He was such a nosy sprite, so mischievous and in the movie one could definitely see his sarcasm and jests. I enjoyed watching both interpretation but I would recommend the play to my friends because I have enjoyed this play a lot. There are two things that particularly pleased me. One is the comic effect rendered by the lighthearted world of sweet fairies, in particular the bumbling but innocent blunder committed by Puck, which is the pivot of the play; and the other is the sympathetic tendency shown by the author towards the plight of women in the areas of courtship and marriage in a patriarchal society. Another important theme is inequality of the sexes which pervades throughout the play. Apart from the unfair patriarchal demand imposed on Hermia, we also see Helena as a victim of her times. Nonetheless, her position still seems doomed. By contrast, in the world of fairies, Titania is at least able to hold her ground and refuse Oberon his brutish demand. So Hermia’s and Helena’s happy endings that are made possible with the fairies’ help are particularly heart-warming. Hats off to Shakespeare for inspiring hope in mortals that dreams may come true!