"I find that most of my fellow students are not chasing after a particular career or a highly specific goal," says Cori Wallace, a freshman in the cast of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the University of Arkansas. "We just want to experience.
"Not only does this art form host such a wide variety of options for careers and creative endeavors, but experience is also the core to all of it," Wallace adds. "To be a theater artist is to know the human condition."
Director Kate Frank was certainly aware of the state of the world when she chose the Shakespeare comedy for this UA Theatre season.
"I've strongly been wanting to do something that is uplifting and refreshing for audiences, because we as a nation are going through such very stressful times," she says. "This play contains some heavy themes but treats all with humor, lightness and a feeling of magic! The audience can come together and just enjoy themselves with this play."
Besides, she adds, it's a great selection for her undergraduate students.
"'Midsummer' is also an excellent training opportunity for acting and design students, introducing them to a classic Shakespeare favorite that has 20-plus speaking roles, heightened language, and exciting design challenges," she says. "Our production will be in a contemporary setting, but with a classical feel."
Written around 1595-96, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in short is this, according to Shakespeare.org/uk:
"People get lost in the woods. Puck manipulates their romantic affections and (in one case) anatomical head-shape. They put on a play."
"This is a piece for all time," says Frank. "It's about love, and all the ridiculous, joyful, miserable, magical feelings that come with it.
"It's also about the brevity of life," she adds. "Repeated references to time and time passing in Shakespeare are his constant reminder that life is brief. Two very famous lines from this play are 'The course of true love never did run smooth.' And, 'Lord! What fools these mortals be!'"
Frank adds that there is also a feminist theme in "Midsummer."
"The patriarchal society (the court of ancient Athens) is beginning to erode. The ancient laws and customs are severe to women who rebel against the hell of an arranged marriage. The penalty for disobedience: Either to be put to death or to live out one's life as a nun.
"Another contemporary theme that has a major impact in the play is the fact that Oberon, the King of Shadows, has created havoc with the weather, out of jealousy and anger towards Titania."
Oberon and Titania are played by faculty members Steven Marzolf and Betsy Jilka, she says, and "the students get to experience the time-honored process of learning their craft through observing and working with older more experienced actors.
"Steven and Betsy get a chance to teach by example, and their students are loving being onstage with their acting teachers!"
Frank adds that the design of production has taken a page "out of the Peter Brook playbook and attempted a completely new visual world that is minimalistic and sculptural."
"There is an anachronistic use of props and costumes along with an 'other-worldly' style with the Fairy Kingdom. Classical, contemporary and original music, by John Crough, will be incorporated into the sound design. We hope to keep the audience on their toes!"
Frank says she loves the play and has accepted the challenge of a large cast and the demands of Shakespeare.
"Fortunately, the Theatre Department has given this project maximum support, with 'all hands on deck,'" she says. "Faculty designers and professors mentor the student actors and designers, as well as providing special coaching in voice and speech, text work, movement work, intimacy training, musicianship and mentorship in stage management. We are a formidable team, and we are ready to rock this show!"
'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
WHEN -- 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3-4; 2 p.m. Nov. 4-5; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8-10; and 2 p.m. Nov. 12
WHERE -- University Theatre on the UA campus in Fayetteville
COST -- Free with reservation
INFO -- Call 575-5387 or email [email protected]