Choreographer Berklea Going steps into new creative role for IU Summer Theatre

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Choreographer Berklea Going

Rising junior Berklea Going hit the ground running when she first arrived as a freshman in IU’s musical theatre program. She was cast immediately as “Rosa Bud”, the ingénue in the Department’s season opener The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In just two short years, Going, a Wells Scholar, has not only appeared on stage, but has also performed an important role behind the scenes as assistant choreographer for a mainstage IU Theatre production. This month we caught up with her in the rehearsal room of IU Summer Theatre’s You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.

“Choreography has always been an interest of mine. When I was younger, I would sit and watch Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies with my mother and be in awe of the people who put those iconic dances together in such brilliant ways.” Once she got to college, she found herself talking with dance instructor Kenneth L. Roberson about her interest in choreography. Just a few short months later she received an email from Roberson letting her know that he needed an assistant for Sweet Charity. Then in the spring of her sophomore year, choreographer and IU faculty member Liza Gennaro also put her name forward to Cardinal Stage Company and she was given the opportunity to choreograph the children’s show Elephant and Piggie. “I feel extremely lucky that I have had two of my teachers support me and promote me to such a level and that I have been able to choreograph so much while still only in college.”

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Going as assistant choreographer for IU’s production of Sweet Charity

This summer, Going took on a new challenge as choreographer for IUST’s final production. “I knew You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was going to be a fun process during my first meeting with director Bob Chapel. It was a very relaxed setting with a lot of laughter. He has created a wonderful environment for this show during rehearsals.” Some of her favorite moments have been simply sitting in rehearsal and laughing with Chapel at the show.

With each choreographer working in his or her own way, each process is a little different. For Charlie Brown, Going started by familiarizing herself with the story and the characters. “I have seen the Charlie Brown cartoons, but re-watched several of them, really paying attention to their movements on screen.” She also listened to the music from the show and began tentatively putting together numbers from the show in her head and on paper. “I had a meeting with Bob where I really became familiar with his vision and his ideas for the show. During rehearsals, I taught the numbers to the cast, sometimes using my prepared choreography and sometimes having to come up with it on the spot.” After teaching it to the cast, she continued cleaning up the dance numbers and also changing things “here and there” to help the overall picture of the show.

“My two favorite dance numbers in the show are ‘My Blanket and Me’, as well as ‘Beethoven Day.’ They are quite different, but are just great fun”, says Going with a bright smile. Linus’s signature song, “My Blanket and Me”, was a little tricky for Going because the final props are not available to the actors at the beginning of the rehearsal process. “When first choreographing, I didn’t have the blanket to work with so a lot of it I only saw in my head. It was exciting to see it come to life with the actors and the prop blankets. And ‘Beethoven Day’ has a groove and feel that is unique in the show. It’s a fun dance style that isn’t used anywhere else. I love the idea of Schroeder and his backup chorus as well.”

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Choreography for “Beethoven’s Day” from Going’s Notebook

Now that she is so familiar with the show, Going says the characters are what interest her the most. “Many people have watched the cartoons and know the Peanuts gang so well. The cast is incredible and each actor has worked so hard to convey his or her character. While it sounds cliché, I am a firm believer in escaping to other worlds through art. There is a lot happening in the world right now and a lot of negativity spreading around. I find myself happier when I am leaving the rehearsal room after watching the show.” Agreed. Who wouldn’t want to laugh and explore the world of Charlie Brown and his friends for a few hours and just escape?

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown opens July 29 and runs through August 14 at the Wells-Metz Theatre as the final show of the 2016 IU Summer Theatre Season. For more information, visit theatre.indiana.edu. Tickets available through our website or at the IU Auditorium box office.

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Going choreographs “My Blanket and Me”

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Talking Tech: Costumes in Repertory

By Corinne Florentino

Costume designers Kelsey Nichols and Linda Pisano found time to discuss their experiences working on the IU Summer Theatre repertory shows, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sense and Sensibility, respectively. Nichols, a recent graduate of IU Theatre’s MFA program in costume design is no novice to designing for the IU Theatre stage. Last season, we saw her innovative designs for Mr. Burns, a post-electric play and Macbeth. Linda Pisano heads the M.F.A in Costume Design program at IU and teaches both undergraduate and graduate students. Pisano also designs for opera, ballet, and theatre at IU and for other professional theaters across the country and abroad.

Each year, IU Summer Theatre performs two plays in repertory. “It is kind of fun to work with the actors in a way where they’re one character in the afternoon and they’re something completely different in the evening,” Pisano says. An adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility brings the Regency era to life and is contrasted with the modern setting of the Shakespearean classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“My job is never to be historically accurate. My priority is always to tell the story,” Pisano says. Though Sense is set in a well-known period, the designer must aid the narrative before keeping true to the time. “What I’ve tried to do is take many of the iconic silhouettes and details from the period that I can use that still tell the story. So, for women, it would be the empire waist or the high waist on dresses. It’s the hair that is stylized after the roman statuary that they loved so much. Many of the men are in tall boots, long dusters, and cutaway jackets.” The costumes in the show maintain a sense of age, with worn wrists and vintage fabrics. There as a “sense of parchment” that echos the original drawings from Austen’s classic novel.

On the contrary, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is taking Shakespeare’s words and setting them in 2016. In the show, there is a group of working-class people called “The Mechanicals.” In more traditional productions, their jobs are “weaver” or “carpenter.” In IUST’s production, their jobs are “Walmart greeter” and “pizza delivery guy.” Nichols states, “[The Mechanicals] are those people you see around you. It’s a way of saying: Theatre is an art for everybody.” Nichols loves that the costumes and setting of the show will allow Shakespeare to be more relatable to its audience.

Each of the designers discussed a few of their favorite costumes from the productions. “I take enjoyment in the ‘only once seen Miss Sophia Grey.’ I took her costume from a costume I designed for Der Rosenkavalier, and it’s layers of silk chiffon white. She, more than anyone, is the iconic silhouette for females. It was very fun to get the peacock feathers, the silk chiffon drape, the hair, and the dress. Even down to her shoes, she is the closest to the time period that you will see in the production.” Pisano stated. In addition to Miss Sophia Grey, Pisano loved that Edward Ferrars’s costume appears to have walked off the page. “He looks just like the piece of research I pulled from the time period. That doesn’t happen as often as we like. Usually, reality and drawings are very different things.”

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Miss Sophia Gray (Mia Siffin)

For Midsummer, Nichols expressed her enjoyment of everyone’s favorite mischievous fairy. “I really love Puck,” Nichols said. Puck interacts with both magic of the fairies and the mortal Athenians. This is reflected in Puck’s costume with the Athenian influence of a more military style jacket. Tara Chiusano portrays Puck and was jumping around during her initial fitting according to Nichols. “It’s always exciting to see it come to life like that and to see your actor really love what’s going on them.”

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Puck (Tara Chiusano)

Don’t miss out on light up costumes, fairy raps, top hats, and some proper poise. A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Sense and Sensibility are running until July 23rd. A full list of performance dates and times can be found at theatre.indiana.edu.

CorinneCorinne Florentino returns as a marketing intern for the Department this summer and we are so glad to welcome back her talent and her enthusiasm for Theatre.

Corinne is a junior at Indiana University majoring in Theatre and Drama with a certificate in Arts Management.
She is on the board of University Players and will be directing her second production with them this fall.

 

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H-T Review: ‘Sense and Sensibility’ one of ‘best-executed’ plays seen in a while

By Matthew Waterman

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Jessica Schroeder and Tara Chiusano as Anne and Lucy Steele, with David Kortemeier as Sir John Middleton. (David Kortemeier appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association)

One of the many lessons of Jane Austen is illustrated by Elinor in “Sense and Sensibility”:

“After all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one’s happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant — it is not fit — it is not possible that it should be so.”

Idolatrous devotion to one single person (the wrong person) is an affliction common to both of Indiana University Summer Theatre’s repertory plays this year: “Sense and Sensibility” as well as Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

IU Summer Theatre, formerly known as Indiana Festival Theatre, rotates the two shows through the Wells-Metz Theatre this month, performed by the same cast of students and professionals.

Other than “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility” is probably Jane Austen’s second-best-known novel. This production uses the stage adaptation by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan, two American regional theater directors.

Helming the production is director Dale McFadden.

No Austen novice, McFadden directed IU’s November 2014 production of “Pride and Prejudice.” This adaptation and interpretation sufficiently “theatricalize” “Sense and Sensibility” without sacrificing subtlety or substance.

When Henry Dashwood dies, nearly his entire fortune falls upon his son from his first marriage, John Dashwood. John’s miserliness, stoked by his wife’s selfishness, dashes any hopes that his half-sisters and their mother had of benefiting from the family riches.

Henry Dashwood’s widow and her daughters, Marianne and Elinor, move to a cottage on the property of John Middleton, leaving the family estate to John and Fanny Dashwood. The Middletons are cousins of the Dashwoods. Their irritating modes of behavior are counterbalanced by their generosity.

Any fan of classic English literature knows that the marrying-off of single young women is at the center of so many plots; this is no exception. The move interrupts a courtship between Elinor and Fanny’s brother Edward Ferrars. At the new residence, Elinor patiently waits weeks for a visit from Edward.

Meanwhile, Marianne becomes acquainted with John Willoughby, a nephew of the Middletons’ neighbor. From the moment Willoughby gallantly rescues Marianne after she sprains an ankle amidst a thunderstorm, Marianne can think of nothing but him. It isn’t long before that couple, too, are separated by circumstance; Willoughby is forced to leave town indefinitely.

As the show progresses on, the Dashwood daughters discover that the love they thought they had discovered was not exactly as it seemed. Austen’s plot is long and winding (almost as if it was meant to be a 400-page novel), but Hanreddy and Sullivan make it relatively easy to follow.

It might be helpful to review the family tree before the show or at intermission by studying the annotated character list in the program, but one certainly does not need to have read the book to enjoy the performance.

“Sense and Sensibility” clocks in at three hours. Long, perhaps, but not too long. The play is consistently entertaining and often funny. McFadden’s production mines the humor wherever it can be found, but never in poor taste.

The Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor, are played by Ashley Dillard and Amanda Catania, respectively. Dillard highlights Marianne’s zest and vibrancy, while Catania presents an honest and good-natured Elinor. Elinor is generally considered to represent “sense” while Marianne represents “sensibility.” The actors play up this distinction nicely.

Jason Craig West is so believable and alluring as the bright and chivalrous John Willoughby that the audience may fall in love with him just as Marianne does. His early conversations with Marianne on poetry seem so genuine that the doubts later cast on his character are a surprising disappointment to all.

Grant Goodman does well in the role of Colonel Brandon, an upstanding but underwhelming friend to John Middleton. The Middletons themselves are a pair to behold; David Kortemeier’s Sir John is a blindingly bright foil to Jessica Schroeder’s dull and sour Lady Middleton. The cast overall is truly a strong one.

Reuben Lucas’ scenic design, Allen Hahn’s lighting design and Kate Hershberger’s sound design are all straightforward and period-appropriate. Linda Pisano’s gorgeous costumes help to demarcate which character an actor is playing, since many play two roles.

It’s hard to say precisely what makes an Austen novel (or an Austen play) so rewarding and enduring; nothing in the content seems particularly outstanding or groundbreaking today. But “Sense and Sensibility” is brought to life this month in one of the best-executed page-to-stage adaptations this town has seen for a while. This show is not one to be missed.

If you go

WHO: Indiana University Summer Theatre.

WHAT: “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen, adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan.

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre in the Norvelle Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 13, 15, 17, 19, 21 and 23; 2 p.m. July 16.

TICKETS: $15-$25. Available by phone at 800-745-3000, in person at IU Auditorium Box Office or online at theatre.indiana.edu.

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. Find this and other arts around town at The Herald Times Online.
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H-T Review: IU’s production of seasonal Shakespeare play ‘delightful’

By Matthew Waterman

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Tara Chiusano (Puck) and Grant Goodman (Oberon). Grant Goodman appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.

Midsummer theater in Bloomington has long been the domain of Indiana Festival Theatre, the professional branch of the Indiana University Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance.

This year’s midsummer merrymaking is Shakespeare’s fittingly titled “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” presented by the same company under a new name. Indiana Festival Theatre is now IU Summer Theatre.

Just as IFT always did, IU Summer Theatre mixes student actors (undergraduate and graduate) with professional actors. A single cast performs “A Midsummer NIght’s Dream” in rotating repertory with a stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”

IFT regulars will recognize professionals returning from previous years, such as David Kortemeier and Jenny McKnight. Many other roles are filled by students of the MFA program in acting, including Ashley Dillard, Jason Craig West, Nicholas Jenkins, Tara Chiusano and Justino Brokaw.

Although “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is among the most commonly performed of Shakespeare’s plays, let me briefly remind you of the premise:

Hermia (Ashley Dillard) is pursued by two suitors but devoted to only one: Lysander (Nicholas Jenkins). Hermia’s other suitor, Demetrius (Jason Craig West) is the declared choice of her father Egeus (Justino Brokaw), backed by Theseus, Duke of Athens (Grant Goodman).

In outright defiance, Hermia and Lysander escape to the forest before Hermia can be forced to wed Demetrius, who is in turn pursued by the lovesick and self-loathing Helena (Amanda Catania). Once in the forest, the lovers have escaped the authority of the court, but not the authority of the woodland fairies.

A domestic feud between the fairy king and fairy queen, Oberon and Titania (Grant Goodman and Jenny McKnight), leads to magical meddling in the young lovers’ affairs. A spry fairy called Puck (Tara Chiusano) is dispatched to manipulate the lovers with potion, but Puck inadvertently complicates matters.

Meanwhile, in a mostly separate subplot, a group of blue-collar workers that Shakespeare termed “the rude mechanicals” rehearse a play that will eventually entertain the Duke and company.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is directed here by department chairman Jonathan Michaelsen. As those who saw his production of “As You Like It” last summer may recall, Michaelsen has a penchant for re-imagining Shakespeare in bold new settings.

The music for the show is all from one drummer, Sam Bryson. Solo drum set may not sound enjoyable, but Bryson’s grooves and ornamentations are perfectly appropriate here.

This production is staged in the round in the Wells-Metz Theatre, so the set is relatively minimal. Each of the three domains (the court, the fairies and the mechanicals) has a concept associated with it.

Costume designer Kelsey Nichols outfits the rude mechanicals in employee uniforms from Home Depot, Domino’s Pizza and the like. Under the leadership of Peter Quince (a court security guard in this production, played by Ian Martin), they stage a hilariously amateurish production of “Pyramus and Thisbe.”

The concepts for the court and the fairies are not as easily discernible as the blue-collar concept for the mechanicals. The court has a logo associated with it, but the overall idea behind it could use fleshing out. The fairies are a graceful presence, but their aesthetic could be more consistent. The round they sing in the second act, for example, fits the mood much better than the drumming that accompanies them elsewhere.

But I nitpick; the show thrives on its superb cast. The mechanicals are supremely funny, particularly David Kortemeier as the easily excitable Nick Bottom. The fairies (Maria Walker, Mia Siffin, Jessica Schroeder, Zach Decker and Katie Horwitz) embody the magic they purvey.

Ashley Dillard and Amanda Catania hit all the right notes as the female lovers. Catania constantly highlights Helena’s low self-esteem in a believable way that invites the audience’s sympathies. Jason Craig West and Nicholas Jenkins are a cute and dopey pair as the male lovers.

The famously fun role of Puck is handled smartly here by the chipper and energetic Tara Chiusano.

IU Summer Theatre has a new name, but the annual Shakespeare comedy is of its usual high quality. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is nothing if not delightful.

If you go

WHO: Indiana University Summer Theatre.

WHAT: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” by William Shakespeare.

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre in the Norvelle Center, 275 N. Jordan Ave.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 12, 14, 16, 20 and 22; 2 p.m. July 17 and 23.

TICKETS: $15-$25. Available by phone at 800-745-3000, in person at IU Auditorium Box Office or online at theatre.indiana.edu.

Reprinted with permission from The Herald Times. Find this and other arts around town at the Herald Times Online.
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H-T: Joel Pierson previews Sense & Sensibility

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Maria Izzo Walker rehearses for Sense and Sensibility, opening Saturday in the Wells-Metz

There’s a pattern of late that involves messing with Jane Austen’s work. She left our world 200 years ago, but in the past 10 years or so, there’s been a rash of quirky adaptations, from Bollywood retellings to millennial vlogging to zombies, for heaven’s sake.

What did Jane do to earn such weirdness?

Our friends at IU Summer Theatre are playing it a little more traditionally this week as they present the stage adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility,” her first novel. Now, the title might make you think that these are two good qualities to have — sense and sensibility — but in Austen’s day, “sensibility” was another word for sentimentalism, not a good quality to embrace. Austen’s novel examines the social fabric of the 1790s and presents two strong female protagonists to do so.

“Sense and Sensibility” is set in England in 1811 and tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor. When they travel to a new home, a modest shack owned by a distant relative, the sisters are given the opportunity to find (and perhaps lose) romance along the way. Director Dale McFadden says, “This humorous and suspenseful adaptation brings Jane Austen’s story of romance and marriage to entertaining life on the stage, in the best tradition of a PBS miniseries.”

The script moves quickly, and the costumes will be of particular interest, as costume designer Linda Pisano is a huge Jane Austen fan.

Part of the fascination with Austen’s work is the examination of the social rules of the age, in comparison with our own. The characters lived in a time when unmarried women under 30 were never allowed to be seen with a man unchaperoned. They couldn’t dance more than three dances with one partner. Outward shows of emotion were a sign of bad breeding, including boisterous laughter. Wives were to look the other way at their husbands’ affairs — in every sense of the word — and they never engaged in any sort of activity that could inspire gossip.

Into this world, Jane Austen penned her characters. Did they follow these rules or fly in the face of them? Come see this production and find out for yourself.

If you go

IU Summer Theatre

WHAT: “Sense and Sensibility,” adapted for the stage from Jane Austen’s novel by Joseph Hanreddy and JR Sullivan

WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 9, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23; 2 p.m. July 10, 16

TICKETS: $15-$25. Visit theatre.indiana.edu, Ticketmaster, or call 812-855-1103

Reprinted courtesy of The Herald Times. Read the original preview here.
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From Page to Stage: The Puzzle of Sense and Sensibility

By Matthew Munroe

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Ashley Dillard as Marianne

When I hear, “Jane Austen,” I think, “The original romantic comedy writer.” Even though Jane Austen was certainly not the first to weave comedic tales of complicated love triangles (just look at A Midsummer Night’s Dream), her novels have played a major role in shaping the modern genre of the Rom-Com. In fact, her novel, Emma, was the inspiration for the hit 90s rom-com, Clueless. This summer, IU Summer Theatre brings her first, if less well-known, novel, Sense and Sensibility, to the stage, with all the trappings that we look for and love in romantic comedies.

Sense and Sensibility tells the story of two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, finding their way in a world in which finding love and marriage is their only chance to better their lives. However, they both have very different ideas about love and how to find it. Director Dale McFadden describes this difference well, saying, “As the title indicates, here there are two types of emotional responses to the world: sense, a calm endurance that things will work out or they’ll be accepted, and sensibility, which is that ‘live completely by your feelings however off the handle they may be’”. In the beginning, it appears as if Elinor is the embodiment of sense and Marianne of sensibility, but things quickly become complicated when neither way of dealing with the world around them gives the sisters what they so desire: love.

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Colonel Brandon (Grant Goodman) and Marianne (Ashley Dillard) Grant Goodman appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association.

Jane Austen’s novel is complex in the way it explores these themes, so one has to wonder how it can be translated to the stage. That is the challenge and joy of producing an adaptation: figuring out how to tell the original story in a new medium. As Linda Hutcheon writes in the second edition of her book, A Theory of Adaptation, “A performance adaptation must dramatize: description, narration, and represented thoughts must be transcoded into speech, actions, sounds, and visual images” (40).  This adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, and IU Summer Theatre’s production, does that incredibly well.

The adaptation, written by Joseph Hanreddy and JR Sullivan, remains faithful to the spirit and themes of the novel, while also realizing that changes need to be made for the story to be as effective on the stage as it is on the page. What exemplifies their faithfulness to the novel is the fact that the director and actors can easily reference the novel to clarify the inner emotional life of any particular scene, something the IU Summer Theatre cast has done many times in rehearsal. This ease of reference comes from the fact that much of the play’s dialogue is lifted straight from the novel, so there is almost always a one-to-one correspondence between scenes in the play and events in the novel. Of course, some events have been cut, some scenes reorganized, and some dialogue added, as in any adaptation, but it is still possible to tell, at any given moment, what event in the novel is being played onstage, a testament to Hanreddy and Sullivan’s ability to translate the specificity and spirit of Austen’s narration into the visual language of theatre.

What makes the play a particularly effective piece of theatre, in my opinion, is Hanreddy and Sullivan’s choice to write the play with no scene breaks. Instead, the transitions between the multitude of locations present in the novel are reduced to simple, choreographed set changes that often have dialogue running over them. With these minimal, suggestive transitions, the characters move from Norland Park to Devonshire as quickly as they do in the novel. As a result, the play does not become bogged down in the elaborate sets and costumes so typical of period dramas. Rather, this production indicates travel to a new location by the mere wearing of a shawl and the replacement of a desk here and a chair there. These fast, suggestive changes keep the play moving at an exciting and engaging tempo.

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Jessica Schroeder, David Kortemeier (appears courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association), and Tara Chiusano.

While these rapid transitions allow the play to maintain the spirit and the pace of the novel, they do create a challenge for the director: how to choreograph the transitions so that they are as quick as possible. This is a logistical puzzle that Dale has had to face, but one that he has solved capably. While watching rehearsals, I often wondered, “How on earth is this transition going to happen quickly?” overwhelmed by the number of people who have to enter and exit and the amount of furniture that has to be moved. However, every time, Dale works with the cast to solve the puzzle of the transition, and it runs like clockwork on the first try.

IU Summer Theatre’s production of Sense and Sensibility is sure to offer much to please every viewer, from those intimately familiar with the novel to those less acquainted with Austen’s work. The adaptation strikes the right balance between being faithful to the novel while also being able to stand on its own as a piece of theatre. Sense and Sensibility is a great complement to the classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and together they will make IU Summer Theatre’s repertory productions something special!

We’d like to thank Matthew Munroe for taking time away from his summer vacation to join us at the theatre, and for this final guest post! He is sorry to say goodbye, but is looking forward to his return to Cambridge, Massachusetts for a summer internship at the American Repertory Theater. There he will be a production intern on one of the A.R.T.’s many upcoming productions. In the fall he will begin his final year at Harvard, where he will direct Naomi Iizuka’s Aloha, Say the Pretty Girls as part of his senior honors thesis in Theater, Dance, and Media. After graduation, he hopes to pursue a career in directing or dramaturgy.
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A Darker Dream: Finding Solemnity in Frivolity

By Matthew Munroe 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies, mostly because it contains, in my opinion, two of Shakespeare’s funniest scenes: the lovers’ quarrel in Act III, Scene ii and the mechanicals’ play in Act V, Scene i. However, because the play’s central conflict includes fairies meddling in the lives of young lovers and a group of inept manual laborers (the mechanicals) trying to stage a play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has historically been viewed as one of Shakespeare’s most frivolous plays. As a result, the script was often drastically edited to fit the whims and fancies of the historical era in which it was performed.

A_Midsummer_Night's_DreamDuring the Enlightenment, Midsummer was hardly ever produced, and when it was, it was reduced to a comedic interlude that featured solely the mechanicals. In these productions, the fairies and lovers were completely cut. Then, during the Romantic era the fairies were used as an excuse to make the play a vehicle for dazzling spectacle, a spectacle that, in one production, even included live rabbits hopping across the stage.

However, in the early 20th century the play came into its own, with Shakespeare’s text fully restored, a result of the discovery of more detailed information about Elizabethan theatre that led producers to stage his plays as they would have been performed in Shakespeare’s time. In the second half of the 20th century, productions began to explore deeper and more serious themes in the play, such as Peter Brook’s production in 1970 that saw the fairy world as a reflection of the unfettered dark impulses of our own. And now, IU Summer Theatre is tackling this complex comedy, and it is not shying away from the show’s darker undertones.

"The Quarrel Of Oberon and Titania" by Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)

“The Quarrel Of Oberon and Titania” by Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901)

In IU Summer Theatre’s production, these dark undertones are fully present from the moment the lights come up and are not pushed aside in favor of the light and fun scenes in the forest that make up most of the play. In Act I, Scene i Theseus is planning his wedding to Hippolyta, which sounds wonderful and happy until you remember that Theseus has just defeated Hippolyta in battle and that she is his prisoner of war. Chronologically, these events occur before the play starts, so Shakespeare merely refers to them, which means that it is easy to forget about them, which I have certainly done before but which this production does not.

Second, when Egeus enters the scene, he wants his own daughter put to death because she refuses to marry the man he wants her to marry, which is his right according to Athenian law. Even though I had read and seen the play before watching this production in rehearsal, I had not fully understood the terrible implications of Egeus’ demand until now. I had always glossed over it, expecting the opening scene to be as light and fun as the scenes in the forest that followed it. But in this production, the opening scene is intense, allowing the audience to fully grasp the gravity of the situation.

Of course, the forest scenes are still hilarious—it is hard for them not to be—but now they serve as a contrast to the intense opening. Moreover, this dark first scene allows the playfulness of the forest scenes to have a purpose, and not to seem merely frivolous, as it has historically been viewed. Director Jonathan Michaelsen described this purpose to the cast, saying, “We set up this really strong patriarchal world [in Act I, Scene i], and I’m trying to set it up so that by the end, it’s been put aright and is more equal.” The magical forest now serves a transformative purpose that empowers the female characters, giving them more independence than they had in the opening scene.

This effect of the forest on the characters is enhanced by the fact that the dark undertones occasionally return, showing how the two worlds are related. The Fairy King and Queen, Oberon and Titania, are in the midst of an argument when we meet them. In IU Summer Theatre’s production, their meeting is expanded beyond Shakespeare’s text to include a choreographed confrontation between their fairy trains set to drum music. In fact, the entire play includes an original drum score, composed by Sam Bryson, a rising junior in the Jacobs School of Music, that serves to keep the tension introduced in Act I, Scene i boiling just underneath the surface throughout the play, and allowing the pay-off of seeing how the forest has transformed the characters to feel earned.

IU Summer Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream certainly has a lot to offer. It maintains the comedy and frivolity that have made the show famous and entertaining for centuries of viewers, while also acknowledging the fact that all is not fun and games in this world Shakespeare has created. I have immensely enjoyed watching this show in rehearsal, and I cannot wait to see it in production!

HSMunroe, Matthew2A Bloomington native, Matthew Munroe has been involved in theatre from a very young age, participating in youth theatre summer camps at St. Charles and the Bloomington Playwrights Project. In 2013, he graduated from Bloomington High School North, and is currently a rising senior at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he is majoring in Theater, Dance, and Media, with a focus on directing.

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