By Vicki Voskuil
The magic of capricious sprites confuses Athenian lovers in the enchanted comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set for July 18-22 on the North Dakota Capitol grounds.
Capitol Shakespeare Society presents one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved plays in which fantasy and reality co-mingle to make mischief in a wood. As wooing moves outside the palace of Duke Theseus, the lovers encounter misapplied magic that throws love out of balance, a major theme of the play.
The plot portrays events surrounding the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta and a father’s royal request to impose Athenian law on daughter Hermia for his choice of husband – a man she does not love. Defiant Hermia escapes to the forest with her beloved Lysander, where they encounter the favored Demetrius and friend Helena in love with Demetrius. Chaos begins when a royal dispute in the forest fairy kingdom sends both the mortal and fairy worlds into turmoil.
Adding to the bizarre events – a misapplied love potion, a man waking with a donkey head – craftsmen choose the forest to rehearse their play, Pyramus and Thisbe, for the duke’s wedding. This play-within-a-play reflects many plot themes, including a story with powerful emotions made hilarious by its comical presentation.
Performances begin at 6:30 p.m. with lawn chair and blanket seating available on three sides of a multi-level thrust stage. Capitol Shakespeare also hosts an expanded Children’s Renaissance Faire Saturday, July 21, from 2 to 6 p.m. south of the Heritage Center. Both events are offered at no charge.
Much is made of imagination in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and what it fosters – dreams, poetry, plays, and love’s illusions. The motif sustains the last act, which is concerned mostly with the relationship between art and life rather than plot.
Among the seven leading roles are the diminutive Hermia, played by Hannah Andring; her preferred suitor, Lysander, played by Johnathan Wanner; the rival Demetrius, portrayed by Brandon Wetch; and lovesick Helena, interpreted by Emmalee Riegler. In the fairy kingdom, Austin Flemmer and Mara Van Ells portray the conniving King Oberon and pugnacious Queen Titania. Derek Pich plays Puck, Oberon’s jester, the mischievous, quick-witted nymph whose pranks and mistakes of magic set many events in motion.
Alex Johnson is Theseus with Farren Gunderson as his betrothed Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Dan Rogers plays Egeus, Hermia’s father insisting on her hand to Demetrius, and the carpenter Peter Quince, leader of the artisans attempting to put on a play. His comrades are the overconfident weaver Nick Bottom, transformed into an ass and played by Charlie S. Conner; the joiner Snug, played by Marc Schmidt; Tom Snout, the tinker, portrayed by Tyler Sander; and Francis Flute, the bellows mender, played by Michelle Renner. Ashley Clooten, Shaylee Meyer, Alexandria Smith, and Erin Drevlow portray the fairies Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed.
Drevlow is directing the play for Capitol Shakespeare and serves on the board of directors. With the organization in its fifth year, she is proud of its growth and support from the local community and increased awareness statewide of Capitol Shakespeare.
“We started with about 800 in attendance for our first four shows in 2008, and last year between 1,800 and 2,000 people saw our five performances,” Drevlow said. “I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the next five years.”