Shakespeare in the Summer of Love

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to be transported into the 1960s in UC production

Brian Thomas

One of Shakespeare’s most raucous, popular comedies is getting an update.

In a few weeks, the Ursinus theater department will perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The twist? They’re transporting it into the Summer of Love.

Professor of theater Domenick Scudera, who is directing the play, had the idea to set it in the late 1960s because it was a time when people were challenging the status quo by trying things that were radical and new, much like today.

The play is a comedy and according to Scudera, this production specifically involves physical comedy. “We’re throwing ourselves into it in a physical way, so it should be a lively, active production.”

“Midsummer” is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays and also one of his most complex. It involves layered comedic plots, mixed-up lovers, and mischievous woodland fairies. It’s a lot of fun, even for people who aren’t familiar with Shakespeare.

“It’s a show I love … [It’s] such a funny, funny play, and it’s so much fun to be part of. There’s so much activity in the play. [All] of the characters are actively engaged in different comic business,” said Scudera, who has directed a lot of comedies throughout his career. “And so it’s not the kind of show where there are four leads and they do everything: It’s divided up amongst a big cast.”

Scudera mentioned that there tends to be a stigma surrounding Shakespeare’s plays—specifically that the language is too hard to understand and that people without proper training are unable to be entertained by it. However, he believes that this is untrue.

“In my mind, Shakespeare is actually easier to understand than other playwrights because he gives you so much, particularly for actors,” he said.

He added that he sees Shakespeare differently than a lot of people, who treat his work like an ancient, untouchable piece of art. “To me, it’s not that, it’s just this raucous, crazy, silly thing.”

Arthur Robinson, who plays Lysander, one of the lovers, agreed that Shakespeare still has a lot to offer. “I think Shakespeare’s wonderful because it ages very well,” he said. “The fact that we can take a plot from Shakespeare’s time, put it in the Summer of Love, and have very smooth transitions in that regard I think [is] very telling.”

Seeing the play in a theater goes a long way towards making it more accessible, according to Scudera.

“I think if you see it performed it makes much more sense than if you’re just reading it on the page,” he explained, because the actors have interpreted the words and an audience can see the actions of the play.

Robinson said that he is looking forward especially to the set and costumes, which will really add to the dynamic nature of the play. “The set is going to be really awesome … It’s really crazy,” he said. “The costumes also are pretty wild and pretty great.”

He also said that he particularly loved working with the 25-member cast. “I think this cast is really wonderful because everyone is enthusiastic, everyone is throwing themselves into it, and everyone is really funny, too—in a comedy, that’s super important.”

One of his fellow cast members is Sarah Gow, who plays Puck, one of the mischievous fairies in the play (in this production they’ll be hippies).

“I like him because he is the ultimate chaotic good,” said Gow. “He knows everything will turn out okay, but he still likes to have fun with it.”

The play is particularly fun for Gow because it allows them to escape the chaos of everyday life.

“My favorite part about doing the show is really just having a chance to step out of my life and be someone else,” they said. “The show is really magical. It’s like having the ability to literally pause all the craziness of the semester and prance around as a fairy on stage. Who doesn’t want to be mischievous?”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens in the Lenfest Theater in the Kaleidoscope on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:30 pm. There will be performances at the same time on Oct. 7 and 8, and a matinee on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 pm. Tickets are $2 for students and $5 for all others and can be reserved online at the theater department’s website.