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Friday, May 16, 2014

Chris Abraham’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins previews at the Festival Theatre



May 14, 2014... Last season, Chris Abraham’s production of Othello held audiences spellbound at the Avon Theatre; this year, A Midsummer Night’s Dream marks his first time directing a Shakespeare play on the renowned thrust stage of the Festival Theatre. Previews began on May 15 and the production opens on Saturday, May 31.

Set within the framework of a contemporary celebration of marriage, the stage will transform into a Stratford backyard at twilight as wedding guests surprise the happy couple with a special gift: an open-air, one-night-only performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Stephen Ouimette takes on the comic role of Bottom, while Evan Buliung and Jonathan Goad share the roles of Titania and Oberon. The cast also features Bethany Jillard as Hermia, Chick Reid as Puck, Liisa Repo-Martell as Helena, Tara Rosling as Lysander, Mike Shara as Demetrius and Scott Wentworth as Theseus.


One of Shakespeare’s most beloved romantic comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is notable, among other things, for its hilarious last-act scene in which the “mechanicals” present a command performance of the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe, a story which inspired Mr. Abraham’s overall concept for this production.

“It moves me to see how one of the world’s oldest love stories has gone on to have such a powerful impact on the world,” says Mr. Abraham. “ ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ was written around 8 AD but is in fact much older. It is a source for not only this play but also for Romeo and Juliet. It is also the prototype for many others. In looking at the play now, I see a powerful connection between this ‘source’ about forbidden love and the tremendous and ongoing transformation of our society to one that embraces freedom of choice in love. I’m struck by how much has changed since Shakespeare’s day, even though lovers around the world still face tremendous obstacles to be with and marry those they love.

“This prompted me to think about the struggle for equal rights for same-sex couples. In this struggle I saw a powerful and living connection between Shakespeare’s time and our own, embodied in a long line of those who have persevered against all odds to be with the ones they love. I wanted to celebrate this struggle and its transformative power. I also wanted to celebrate a new normal – one that is increasingly, well, normal. I choose to believe that Shakespeare would have it no other way and that he is here (in spirit) celebrating love and its transformations with us.”

In keeping with this season’s theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge, this play explores the joy and heartache of love in all of its many splendid variations.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play that we all know and love, and have probably seen many times before,” says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, “yet Chris brings a refreshing interpretation, breathing new life into this beloved story. His consistently inventive staging and playful, affectionate approach make for a magical combination. This is sure to be a terrific evening out at the theatre: a joyous, heartfelt celebration of love.”

Stratford audiences will remember Mr. Abraham as the director of Othello, The Matchmaker, The Little Years and For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again. Mr. Abraham is the Artistic Director of Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre, and this past October, received the prestigious Siminovitch Prize – the richest prize awarded in Canada to recognize an outstanding theatre professional in mid-career.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is dedicated to the memory of Jack Merigold, a member of the Festival’s first stage management team.

Artistic credits include Designer Julie Fox, Lighting Designer Michael Walton, Composer and Sound Designer Thomas Ryder Payne, Dramaturge Toby Malone, Movement Director Shona Morris and Fight Director John Stead.

Mr. Abraham’s production is one of two interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream being presented this season. Director Peter Sellars takes on an equally adventurous tack with the play, using four actors to explore the multiple worlds of Shakespeare’s play. It is the first time the Festival has programmed two versions of the same play in one season.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Forum Highlights

The Stratford Festival Forum is a series of activities and events, including concerts, debates, talks, comedy and interactive presentations, that offer theatregoers a unique opportunity to delve further into the ideas and issues raised by the 2014 playbill and its theme of Madness: Minds Pushed to the Edge.

Themes related to A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be explored through several Forum events, including: Still Dreaming, a screening of the 2014 film directed by Hank Rogerson and Jilann Spitzmiller, makers of Shakespeare Behind Bars, in which retired artists in the Lillian Booth Actors Home and directors from New York Fiasco’s Theatre stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Dream a Little Dream, a drama workshop that introduces 10- to 12-year-olds to the story and characters in the play; and Not with the Eye, a discussion about the aesthetics of gender – homosexuality, bisexuality and love – as portrayed on stage in Shakespeare’s time with Dr. Adrienne Harris, eminent psychoanalyst and Faculty and Supervisor at New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis, and Dr. M.J. Kidnie, English Professor at Western University and Shakespeare specialist with an interest in the politics of race, gender and appropriation.

Sustaining support for the Forum is generously provided by Kelly & Michael Meighen and the T.R. Meighen Foundation. Support for the 2014 Forum is generously provided by Nandita & Julian Wise. Selected Forum events supported by Bell Let’s Talk. Support for Peer Into the Playbill is provided in memory of Dr. W. Philip Hayman.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs until October 11. For tickets, contact the box office at 1.800.567.1600 or visit stratfordfestival.ca.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sponsored by BMO Financial Group, Presenter of the Stratford Festival Dream Package.

Production support is generously provided by Larry Enkin & family in memory of Sharon Enkin, and by Drs. M.L. Myers & the late W.P Hayman and by Martie & Bob Sachs.

Support for the 2014 season of the Festival Theatre is generously provided by Claire and Daniel Bernstein.

Stratford Direct, the daily return private bus service, now offers two routes: Toronto to Stratford and Detroit to Stratford. The Toronto bus costs $20 round trip, departing once daily from May 3 to 24 and September 23 to October 12, and twice daily between May 26 and September 21. The Detroit bus costs $40 round trip, with Tuesday, Friday and Saturday departures from June 3 to September 28. Both routes run on performance days only.

The Stratford Direct Presenting Sponsor is OLG. Support for Stratford Direct is generously provided by The Peter Cundill Foundation.

The 2014 season runs from April 21 to October 12, featuring King Lear; Crazy for You; two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Man of La Mancha; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Hay Fever; King John; Mother Courage and Her Children; Antony and Cleopatra; Christina, The Girl King; and more than 200 events in The Forum.

Cast (in alphabetical order)

Snug …………………………………….      Karl Ang
Hippolyta………………………………..      Maev Beaty
Ensemble………………………………...      Carla Bennett
Philostrate……………………………….      Michael Blake
Second Fairy…………………………….      Savita Brickman-Maxwell
First Fairy………………………………..      Josh Buchwald
Titania/Oberon…………………………...     Evan Buliung
Quince……………………………………     Lally Cadeau
Mote……………………………………..      Isabella Castillo
Ensemble………………………………...      David Collins
Snout…………………………………….      Keith Dinicol
Flute……………………………………...     Victor Ertmanis
Ensemble…………………………………     Marisa Falcone
Understudy………………………………     Sara Farb
Ensemble…………………………………     Xuan Fraser
Ensemble…………………………………     Barbara Fulton
Titania/Oberon…………………………...     Jonathan Goad
Starveling………………………………...     Brad Hodder
Hermia……………………………………    Bethany Jillard
Understudy………………………………     Robert King
Wedding Couple…………………………     Josue Laboucane
Cobweb…………………………………..     Graci Leahy
Sentinel…………………………………...    Gabriel Long
Peaseblossom……………………………..    Hazel Martell-Abraham
Attendant to Egeus……………………….    Derek Moran
Ensemble………………………………….    Natalie Moore
Wedding Couple………………………….    Thomas Olajide
Musician…………………………………..    Thomas Ryder Payne
Changeling Child…………………………    Charlie Rose Neis
Bottom……………………………………    Stephen Ouimette
Puck………………………………………    Chick Reid
Helena…………………………………….    Liisa Repo-Martell
Mustardseed………………………………   Brooklyn Rickert
Lysander………………………………….    Tara Rosling
Ensemble………………………………….    Laura Schutt
Demetrius…………………………………    Mike Shara
Egeus……………………………………..    Michael Spencer-Davis
Theseus……………………………………   Scott Wentworth
Ensemble………………………………….    Breanna Willis

Artistic Credits

Director……………………………………   Chris Abraham
Designer…………………………………...   Julie Fox
Lighting Designer…………………………   Michael Walton
Composer and Sound Designer…………...   Thomas Ryder Payne
Dramaturge………………………………..   Toby Malone
Movement Director……………………….    Shona Morris
Fight Director……………………………..   John Stead
Producer…………………………………...   David Auster
Casting Director…………………………...   Beth Russell
Creative Planning Director………………..   Jason Miller
Assistant Director…………………………   Brett Christopher
Assistant Set Designer…………………….   Devon Bhim
Assistant Costume Designer………………   Kimberly Catton
Assistant Lighting Designer……………….  Kaileigh Krysztofiak
Tap Choreography…………………………  Carla Bennett
Fight Captain………………………………  Jonathan Goad
Stage Manager……………………………..  Meghan Callan
Assistant Stage Managers………………….  Holly Korhonen, Anne Murphy,
Christopher Sibbald
Production Assistant……………………….  Jocelyn McDowell
Production Stage Managers………………..  Margaret Palmer, Cynthia Toushan
Technical Director…………………………   Jeff Scollon

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Box Office: Toll Free 1.800.567.1600 Local 519.273.1600
stratfordfestival.ca

2014 Season | April 21 to October 12
King Lear | Crazy for You | A Midsummer Night’s Dream | The Beaux’ Stratagem
Man of La Mancha | Alice Through the Looking-Glass | Hay Fever | King John
Mother Courage and Her Children | Antony and Cleopatra | Christina, The Girl King
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a chamber play

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