CORVALLIS - William Shakespeare's beloved comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," will launch a new summer theatrical program at Oregon State University that will focus on the classics.
Every summer, OSU's University Theatre program will present a favorite play, chosen from the works of Shakespeare, Moliere and other playwrights from different periods. The new program will replace OSU's Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, which had run every summer for a decade.
"The Gilbert and Sullivan Festival was popular and unique, but the challenge of funding and sustaining the huge production demands finally dictated its termination," said Marion O. Rossi Jr., of OSU's University Theatre program.
Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," first produced in the late 16th century, has established itself as a long-time favorite of theater-goers. The OSU production will run Aug. 5-7 and Aug. 12-14 at the Withycombe Hall Theater, 30th Street and Campus Way in Corvallis.
Featuring one of Shakespeare's most fanciful and imaginative scripts, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" has entertained audiences for more than 400 years. It has triggered the imagination of filmmakers, as well, including a 1930s depiction with James Cagney and Mickey Rooney, and a production this spring with Calista Flockhart and Stanley Tucci.
"The story is best told on stage," Rossi said, "where the magic of its fairies, the passion of its lovers, and the humor of all its characters can infuse the audience with the sheer joy and theatricality of the play."
The script features four interlinked plot lines that are skillfully woven into a charming comedy about the foibles and triumphs of love. Each of the stories features one or more pairs of lovers whose happiness has been frustrated in some way.
Theseus, the ruler of Athens (portrayed by Stephen Massott), and Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons (Amy Binder), were once enemies in battle who become husband and wife. Their marriage, and the preparations for it, frame the rest of the story.
The multiple motivations, meanderings and mistakes of two young pairs of lovers - Lysander (Nicholas King) and Hermia (Sarah Lind), and Demetrius (Monte Ludington) and Helena (Jennifer Backstrand) - constitute the second major story line. Their difficulties can be traced, in part, to themselves, but also to family, Athenian law and the playful interference of the Fairies.
The fairy king Oberon (Ben Deatrick) and fairy queen Titania (Elizabeth Willis) are having a spat and the effects manage to confuse and confound the young lovers. The result is that a fourth group of characters, the "rude mechanicals," are drawn in.
This group of Athenian workers have retired to the woods to rehearse their play, which they hope to present at the wedding feast of Theseus and Hippolyta. But the fairies and the young lovers also are in the woods, and the shenanigans come fast and furious.
When the complications and confusion clear, all of the lovers are properly matched and reunited, just in time for the anticipated weddings.
"The director and designers for the OSU production have chosen to focus on the dramatic journey of the play, in which the initially harsh world of Athens, where love is thwarted and denied, is softened and invaded by the wonder of the forest and fairies that surround it," Rossi said.
In addition to Rossi, who is directing, the artistic staff for the production includes William Earl, costumes; Richard George, set and lights; Brad Gaylord, stage manager; and Renee Sher, assistant director.
All performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at $10 for general admission, $7 for seniors, and $6 for students. They may be reserved by calling the box office at 541-737-2784 beginning Monday, Aug. 2.
For other information, contact the University Theatre office at 541-737-2853.
The cast for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" includes:
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Marion Rossi, 541-737-4917