"A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Theater School's Chicago Playworks makes dreams come true
Published: Monday, January 11, 2010
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
This season, Chicago Playworks, the children's theatre company run through the Theater School, takes its biggest risk by taking a road more traveled.
"We're teaching Shakespeare prose to children so we are approaching everything about the show that is true to text but in a way that it can be understood by kids," said Kellen Krause, fourth year Theater School student and scenic designer for "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Opening on Jan. 12, the Theater School's production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is an original take on the classic play. Set in 1952 Athens, this adaptation harkens back to a simpler time, emphasizing the rigid sense of morality typical of the period.
As four youths make their way out of strict Athens and into a forest riddled with magic, the black and white of their home world gives way to vibrant, intoxicating color. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, and with some invisible interference by woodland fairies, the four teens find out how colorful love and magic can be.
"The show has a lot of fun, colorful, lively images from the 1950s," says director Catherine Weidner. "We play Rock N' Roll music at the beginning of the show. It's a very sort of party atmosphere."
It's also the subtle humor and playful references that make the show more than just a kid's play.
"There are so many things in it that are funny for us and funny for adults," Weidner said. "It isn't just a kids' show. It's a play that has been adapted for family audiences."
Much of the show centers on not only the plot and subplots, but also the experience of a living play. Set, lighting, and even some costume changes are made in front of the audience, while a live percussionist engages with both those on stage and in house. A set of six characters known as "The Mechanicals" develop their own story throughout the show, centered around the trials and tribulations of putting on a show.
"Our mission is to give people the best possible introduction to language, and verse, and poetry, and theatre," Weidner said. "We want to light a fire under people. The purpose of this production is to bring joy, and sort of ease, to kids thinking about Shakespeare."
Wediner explained that working with Chicago Public Schools to engage students of all ages in the power of theatre, Chicago Playworks uses this production and its many other shows to actively present theatre to the next generation. With more than 35,000 students in attendance each season, the company serves as a window into the world of art for many students from the Chicagoland area. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is the second of three shows put on by Playworks this year, and the only offering for students to gain exposure to Shakespeare's classical forms.
Filled with color, music, laughter and fun, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" guarantees the audience a fresh perspective on a time-honored play.
The show runs from Jan. 12 to March 2 at the Merle Reskin Theatre on DePaul's Loop campus. Performances on Tuesdays and Thursdays begin at 10 a.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased by calling the Box Office at (312) 922-1999.