In a few short months in the year 1595, when he was barely 31 years old, William Shakespeare wrote back to back masterpieces in Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The first a tragedy whose popularity has only increased over the centuries, the second arguably the greatest comedy ever written for the stage.
The plays share a passionate understanding of what it means to be young and to be in love. Both require that the lovers defy the dictates of their parents and the prescribed codes of social order, in both strange potions alter states of consciousness, and while the lovers in each case are united in marriage, in Romeo and Juliet, the bridal bed becomes, all too soon, the lover’s tomb.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is too well known to need repeating, but what never fails to be theatricality exciting is its mixture of sexual passion and deadly physical violence. Under the heat of an Italian midsummer, tempers flare, passions are aroused and old vendettas erupt into new feuds, all of which Shakespeare conveys in some of the most lyrical poetry ever to flow from his pen.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is reputedly Shakespeare’s most produced play. It is also a unique play in that the majority of the action takes place at night. Which is strange for a comedy – most comedies are bright affairs, and most people associate the day with happy things and the night with the creepy and supernatural. But somehow Shakespeare makes this work. Perhaps it is because he has created a play which is concerned with dreams – why we dream, what we dream about, and why humans follow their dreams against all odds, even against their Will. And in this treatment of that subject, it is a happy and joyous expression of humanity’s nature. It is also an affirmation to the passion and power of dreams.
The play begins with a tragedy as intense as Romeo and Juliet – a father in the ancient city of Athens is dragging his daughter before the Duke, demanding she marry the man he has chosen, not the man whom she loves. If she refuses to wed, the law states she can be put to death, or join a nunnery, and never see men again. The daughter and the man she loves decide to run away from Athens and marry outside the city’s limits. And all they have to do is, at midnight, cross through a forest inhabited with supernatural creatures, known to us as faeries. The faeries are meddlesome, intriguing and nasty creatures who quickly get involved in the world of the mortals and the comedy begins!
Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed and staged by students from all four years of the Theatre Program. In addition Romeo and Juliet will feature Guest Artist Jerry Etienne as the Prince, Resident Actor Paddy Monaghan as Old Capulet and Shakespeare Professor Ken Jacobsen as Old Montague.
Fresh from their beautiful work on Les Liaisons Dangereuses the productions will again be designed by Carol Nelson and Renate Pohl, with Renate doing sets and lighting and Carol costumes for both shows.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is directed by Visiting Professor Adam Nashman and Romeo and Juliet is directed by Fine Arts Head Ken Livingstone. (Romeo and Juliet will be Ken’s fiftieth consecutive production in Newfoundland!).
A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet will alternate nightly in repertory from Monday, November 26 thru Saturday, December 1 at 8:00 p.m. in the School of Fine Arts Theatre. Tickets are available at the College Bookstore or at the Box Office on the evening of each performance. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.