A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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January 14 – February 14 2016 at WSC AVANT BARD

Midsummer11“Looming against screens flooded with candy colors, the mysterious shapes and gliding movements of the shadow puppets (designed by Alex Vernon) lend a satisfying feeling of otherworldliness to the fairy scenes, and the dynamic and bristly gamelan sounds suggest the wild strangeness of the fairies’ magic.

“Oberon is a muscular figure with an angry thicket of hair. Titania’s attendant Cobweb dangles on a strand of spidery silk. Another attendant resembles a doll-size old woman. But Puck has the most expressive silhouette, with a fierce facial expression, a dancer’s torso, and knees that bend and crouch.

“Those details pay off when Puck (Daven Ralston) morphs from a shadow into a three-dimensional sprite who bears a distinct resemblance to the two-dimensional version. The likeness between silhouette and humanoid is one of many rewarding touches in director Randy Baker’s interesting and beautiful production… whose high-concept structure proves sturdy. When Theseus observes, “The lunatic, the lover, and the poet / Are of imagination all compact,” you feel that you could add “the shadow-puppeteer” to his statement.”

–From Washington Post review

 

“Director Randy Baker has come to this creation honestly, as he was born in Singapore, just across the straits to the island of Java. He grew up within earshot of Javanese gamelan music and saw there and in Malaysia performances of the ethereal puppetry of wayang kulit. This approach not only differentiates the world of the fairies, but creates a whole projectory to the well-known tale that is about accessing the metaphysical world of shadows through dreams and then the journey back to real life. He has taken some liberties with switching around lines and adding scenes to do so. It’s a beautiful endeavor.

Midsummer8“Baker has a great partner in puppeteer Alex Vernon, who has has created terrific figures for the fairy world. Though he has fashioned the traditional two sticks to manipulate these wayang kulit figures, he has taken liberties with new articulation joints. Cobweb as she swings upside down in a kind of aerial ballet with her legs akimbo and her hair trailing is perhaps the most radically new and freely expressive, but the fairies are all enchanting.

“The actors take turns on the homemade tin cans and xylophone parts that serve as the gamelan orchestra. While actors doubling as musicians is not new to the stage these days, these guys seemed to have a special kind of focus and at the same time having great fun with their “found” orchestra.

This production theatrically manifests many of Shakespeare’s lines in bright, news ways, and I’m left marveling at its images: ‘swift as a shadow, short as any dream.’”

— From DC Theatre Scene review

 

“An absolute treat! You will be entranced by this production’s creativity!”

— From Broadway World review

“As Washington continues its decades long love affair with Shakespeare, Avant Bard’s unique contribution to the vision of what Shakespeare means to the 21st century remains vital.”

–From DC Metro Theatre Arts review

Midsummer5FEATURING: Linda Bard, Jenna Berk, Zach Brewster-Geisz, Danny Cackley, Annalisa Dias, Christian R. Gibbs, Melissa Marie Hmelnicky, Jon Jon Johnson, Robert Pike, Daven Ralston, Toni Rae Salmi, Rachel Viele

DESIGNED BY Debra Kim Sivigny (Set and Costumes), Katie McCreary (Lights), James Bigbee Garver (Music). Britney Mongold (Props), Alex Vernon (Puppets)

WITH Jonelle Walker (Assistant Director), Elena Velasco (Dance Choreography) Maegan Clearwood and Jeff Gan (Dramaturgy), Lindsey Moore (Stage Management), Erika Jones (Assistant Stage Manager)

Click here to read my director’s notes

For dramaturg Maegan Clearwood’s terrific study guide click here

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