Dreamers in Dumbo: A high-flying, high-concept ‘Midsummer’

A little tied up: Dancers with “The Dream Project” will sail high overhead in the adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening in Dumbo on March 23.
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What the Puck?

A new dance theater piece will present an aerial and allegorical take on Shakepeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with flying fairy figures representing the nations of the North American Free Trade Agreement. “The Dream Project,” opening at the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center in Dumbo on March 23, will feature trilingual actors exploring the relationships between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, in a story inspired by President Trump’s hardline stance against immigrants, said the show’s director.

“We’re digging into the darkness of what’s happening between our three countries, and what happens when we don’t get along?” said Katie McHugh, who has worked across North America. “Trump is making all of these decisions that are putting our borders at risk.”

The show focuses on the play’s warring magical couple, the Fairy King Oberon and Titania, who in this version represent the battling forces of capitalism and Mother Nature, respectively, as well as Canada and America, with Oberon’s servant Puck standing in for Mexico. During the fight between King and Queen, Titania wreaks havoc on the fairy kingdom, a move meant to remind audience members of the effect of industry on the natural world, said McHugh.

“If Oberon’s goal is to build at whatever cost, and Titania is Mother Nature — if they’re at a conflict, what happens?” she asked. “In my mind, nature has the power to destroy all, and if we upset nature, then we’re done. We are using Shakespeare’s text and the conflict he created, but we’re putting our own larger context on top of that.”

The cast members will deliver their lines in English, French, and Spanish, but McHugh promised that the physical storytelling — including aerial choreography — will help all audience members understand the piece — even if it does not give any easy answers.

“I think the conversations that we’re beginning in this piece through the medium of Shakespeare will hopefully spark conversations for people to talk about their political and social fears and what is actually happening with our borders,” she said. “I want this piece to be a catalyst for conversati­on.”

“The Dream Project” at the Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center (29 Jay St. at Plymouth Street in Dumbo, March 23–24 at 7 pm, March 25 at 2 pm. $18.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Updated 5:47 pm, July 9, 2018
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