Stuff that Happens
Stuff that happens in the play
- Theseus, Duke of Athens, plans his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Egeus interrupts to complain that his daughter Hermia has fallen in love with Lysander. Theseus orders Hermia to obey her father and marry Demetrius; otherwise, she will be killed or sent to a nunnery.
- Hermia and Lysander plan to escape to the woods, get married, and live off money from Lysander’s rich aunt.
- Hermia’s friend Helena, who loves Demetrius, reveals the plan to him, and he follows Hermia and Lysander into the woods.
- In the woods, Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, quarrel over the possession of an infant boy, who never makes an appearance.
- Oberon bewitches Titania so that she will fall in love with the first creature she sees when she wakes.
- Bottom, an Athenian laborer, has come to the woods with his fellow workers to rehearse a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding celebration.
- Puck places an ass’s head upon Bottom, with whom Titania promptly falls in love.
- Oberon commands Puck to bewitch Demetrius so that he falls in love with Helena; Puck, however, mistakes Lysander for Demetrius. Discovering Pucks’ mistake, Oberon orders him to bewitch Demetrius as originally intended.
- Oberon releases Titania from her infatuation with Bottom. Puck removes the spell from Lysander. Demetrius remains enchanted with Helena. But Egeus still wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, not Lysander.
- Coupling and play-going ensue.
Notes from the Director
hot ice and wondrous strange snow
Probably no play of Shakespeare’s has had as many different kinds of life in the theater as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It gets done all the time, and has demonstrated an ability to thrive in the strangest places. I myself have directed the play set in colonial Malaysia and in Tudor England and in the fairyland of a full symphony orchestra playing Mendelssohn’s wonderful music. I have seen the play come to life in a white box, in a Gothic forest, and in the canals of Mars. This hardy tolerance of exotic environments is surprising when you consider that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is also one of Shakespeare’s most delicate plays, woven in part out of pure gossamer. But the play’s sturdy delicacy is only one of its many oxymorons. Here are some more: O brawling love, O loving hate, / O anything of nothing first create, / Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms, / Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health, / Still waking sleep that is not what it is… That’s Romeo speaking, describing the torments of his love-soaked mind, but he might just as well have been describing the silly love-soaked action of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, its hot ice and wondrous strange snow. Shakespeare certainly had young love on the brain in 1594 when he wrote his popular comedy and tragedy; in many ways A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. Both comedy and tragedy swing from rapture to horror, both are propelled by erotic desire, both are illuminated with lightning flashing through the dark, both have lovers who sleep and dream. Thank heavens, in the comedy our lovers eventually all wake up together, and the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is transformed by the mechanicals into something else entirely.
In this production for Shenandoah Shakespeare, we’re producin the play in the most exotic circumstances of all: none whatsoever. We aren’t introducing the elaborate trappings of the designer’s fantasy, and, as usual, we’re leaving the lights on. Our magical spells will be mostly made from Shakespeare’s original ingredients: his poetry, the energies of actors, and the imaginations of our audience. Even so, we hop to take you deep into fairyland, into a life of waking sleep and transforming desire, an exotic world we think you’ll recognize as your own.