Iowa City – In just a few weeks, you’ll have the opportunity to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the most appropriate of all settings for this popular Shakespearean comedy – outside. Combined Efforts Theatre will present an adaptation of the play at Country Camp, the location of a series of “County Fair” themed shows over the past few summers. The dates are July 23, 24 and 25. Combined Efforts describes the show like this:
Theseus and Hippolyta look for a reason to celebrate thirty years of marriage. Their son, Peter Quince, has been disowned for becoming a playwright. Their daughter, Constance, who married a rat catcher, has also been disowned. King Oberon and Queen Titania struggle over how to raise the changeling child. Should he run wild in the forest or be coddled and spoiled? The four lovers find, lose and find one another again in the forest. Meanwhile the local tradesmen rehearse their “tragical” play with exuberant earnestness.
We had a chance to ask Janet Schlapkohl, who adapted the play, a few questions about the show:
Why did you decide to do Shakespeare after a number of years of your own original work?
For the past five years the summer shows have had a theme which suggested they were happening during a County Fair. For example, Love at the County Fair, Mystery at the County Fair and most recently, Trublesome Tymes at the Faire, set in Renaissance England. I became interested in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but wanted adapt the script to make it unique. I have never written an adaptation, so that was also a goal!
How is this adaptation different from the original?
Shakespearean scholars will notice the altered meter, and changes in the use of blank verse. Also, there are additional characters and some original characters have altered roles. There are changes within relationships. For example, in the original, Theseus and Hippolyta are newlyweds. In this version, Theseus and Hippolyta are celebrating thirty years of marriage; or rather, looking for a reason to celebrate. In the adaptation, they have children. Their son, who now calls himself Peter Quince has been disowned for becoming a playwright. Their daughter was disowned for marrying the rat catcher.
Audiences will recognize many original lines, yet sometimes they are voiced by different characters. The struggle over the changeling child, between the Fairy King and Queen is a quarrel about parenting styles. There was enough in the original to suggest this, so I pushed it further.
“King Oberson would have the child and let him run the forests, wild.”
“Queen Titania will coddle and destroy all that is noble about the boy.”
In this adaptation, most relationships are impacted by children. Finally, in the Fairy Kingdom there is a division between Sprites and Fairies, the followers of Oberon and Titania. Members of this Fairy Kingdom are working fairies and sprites and dress accordingly. There is enough of the original that those who love that version should feel satisfied.
Will it be done promenade style where the audience moves to different locations on the farm? If so, which locations?
Yes, and with some of the same locations and also a new area. The audience may sit in the woods or on the grass just outside looking down into them. Several scenes take place there. This should be a very exciting aspect of being in an outdoor theatre.
The casting of Scott Strode as Puck jumped out at me – he’s considerably older than one would expect for the character – what are you hoping to get from Puck as played by Scott?
Yes, it sort of jumped out at Scott too! Correct, Shakespeare’s Puck is an older boy, generally played by a young man. That casting, however also changes the relationship between Oberon and Puck. I wanted to view couples at each stage of their relationship. I had these categories in mind; First Love, Married with Children, Parents of Adult Children, Retired Grandparents. Fairies and Sprites are eternal, timeless. So, Scott Strode as Puck, is the oldest Sprite. He plays opposite Evie Stanskie as Cobweb, the oldest Fairy. They have a bantering relationship that is charming and disarming. And both have more than enough playfulness or sprightliness (ha ha) to carry their roles.
Anything else you can tell us about the show?
It is directed by Elijah Jones, who also directed Troll Music. People are free to wander the grounds until showtime while enjoying fresh lemonade, cookies and other treats and see the chickens, sheep, pigs, and a pony. There’s also a lovely view of Iowa countryside. We have added some new talents to CET along with some very experienced actors. Their incredible comedic timing makes the show hilarious.
The dates are July 23, 24 and 25. For details, directions and tickets go to www.combinedefforts.org. Note that chairs will be provided though audience members are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs as well. There will also be a golf cart to transport guests who need assistance moving from one location to another.
Philostrate-(Master of Revels)- Bob Shaffer
Alcaeus-(Master of Ceremonies)-Nicholas Johnson
Theseus- Jerry Sorokin
Hippolyta- Pam Michaels Meyers
Constance- Madonna Smith
The Rat Catcher-Alec Grubbe
Gossip- Sarah Bender
Helena- Ali Heath
Margaret of the Mead House-Lark Cristensen-Szlanski
Bottom- Derek Johnson
Quince- Kalvin Goodlaxson
Flute- Eric Schneider
Oberon- Josh Sazon
Puck- Scott Strode
Thistle – Gia Pasley
Fairies and Sprites- CET Dance Team