This show has a most rare vision!
A modern take on a Shakespeare comedy will flutter into Carroll Park next week. The Smith Street Stage version “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” starting on June 20, looks at the mythical story of fairies and star-crossed lovers through the eyes of everyday New Yorkers, said its director.
“We set it in contemporary times and in New York City, and a big exploration in this production is looking at ways to retell events of a play written over 400 years ago,” said Jonathan Hopkins.
Setting the play in 2018 gives a new twist to some of the play’s events, said Hopkins.
“We did not change any plot points — it’s a modern take, but it is Shakespeare’s text and everything the audience will hear and see is what Shakespeare has written — we just added in some trends,” he said. “I would say it’s quite true to the play that Shakespeare wrote.”
Some of the largest changes in perspective are due to changing gender roles since the 16th century. A scene in which a father threatens to have his daughter put to death if she does not marry the man he has chosen seems barbaric to modern audiences, said Hopkins.
“I don’t know how Shakespeare’s audience then received that, but it would be extraordinary in our times,” he added. “Our actor portrays the father as someone who doesn’t really want to enforce the death penalty, but is using that old law as a scare tactic for his daughter.”
The characters will also wear modern clothes that fit their class, said Hopkins. The character of Bottom will be dressed as a subway worker, for instance.
“The Duke and people of the upper crust are dressed more formally, and the middle and working class people are dressed as people coming home from work,” he said.
The production will run in Carroll Park for two weeks, and then move indoors to the Actors Fund Art Center for another week. Hopkins said the outdoor stage has been vital to the growth of the company, but that moving indoors will offer the actors a chance for a quieter, more nuanced approach to their roles.
“We’d like to explore a lot of other ways to do theater,” said Hopkins. “When we’re outside … the actors have to use their full voices, and a lot of subtle nuances of acting become harder outside, because they have to use so much vocal power to transmit the story.”
But the outdoor performances have one advantage, he said — they are more authentic to Shakespeare’s time.
“When I think how Shakespeare would have performed it, he had written it to be performed outdoors, and that adds a lot of power to the story,” said Hopkins.
“A Midsummer Night Dream” at Carroll Park (Carroll Street at Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, www.smith
And at the Actors Fund Arts Center (160 Schermerhorn St. between Hoyt and Smith Streets Downtown). July 11–13 at 7:30 pm; July 14 at 2 pm and 7:30 pm; July 15 at 2 pm. $10.