6 Facts about Mendelssohn and His Wedding March

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired many different artists. Felix Mendelssohn, a German composer, was one of those artists. One Mendelssohn’s most famous pieces of music is his Wedding March, which was inspired by a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that he saw. Below are some facts about Mendelssohn and his Wedding March.

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You can listen to one performance of his wedding march here:

 

Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be! — A Dramaturgical Talk

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

On June 29, I gave a dramaturgical talk before our invited dress rehearsal. The talk focused on salient aspects of our production that had come up during rehearsal and that I felt were interesting and relevant to our modern day life. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with the cast more and experience the show a few more times. I’ve been able to reflect further on the themes featured in the play. The following is an updated and modified version of the dramaturgical talk I gave on June 29. Continue reading

Shakespeare on the Big Screen

by Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

This summer, a new film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Casey Wilder Mott will be available to watch in cinemas. Mott has adapted the play to take place in modern day Hollywood rather than ancient Athens. The re-imagination of the play capitalizes on the reputation of Hollywood as a place where magic and reality meet. Continue reading

The Green Show: A Free Shakespeare in the Park Tradition

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

A tradition of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival is the Green Show. 30 minutes before every Free Shakespeare in the Park production, the intern company performs an original 15-minute educational play which outlines the history of the show and provides a quick synopsis of the story.

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Dewdrop (Gina White), Thorn (Abigail Milnor-Sweetser), and Mulberry (Colleen Scallen) discuss the history and plot of the play. Photo by Jay Yamada. Set by Neal Ormond. Costumes by Hyun Sook Kim. Masks by Kendra Johnson.

Interestingly, the Green Show echoes the prologues that were seen in some of Shakespeare’s plays. One of his most famous prologues appears in Romeo and Juliet. A prologue actually appears in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well. When the mechanicals perform Pyramus and Thisbe at the Duke Theseus’ wedding, Peter Quince steps forward to give a prologue. His prologue has 2 functions. First, he makes an appeal for the audience’s sympathy; he asks the audience to forgive them if they are offensive. Second, Quince provides a summary of the plot.

The presence of a prologue was fairly common in Elizabethan theatre. They usually served, as in the case of Quince’s prologue, to ask pardon from the audience members, provide themes for the play, and give historical context. Prologues were typically performed by a single actor dressed in black, providing a stark contrast to the other, more elaborately dressed, actors. Continue reading

“Two seeming bodies, but one heart”: The Relationship between Helena and Hermia

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

Recently, the Folger Shakespeare Library published a blog post titled “Six things to look for when you watch ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.” For the blog post, I submitted a paragraph of my own thoughts on one aspect of the play that I think is important to look out for. Below is an expanded and more in-depth version of that paragraph. The full blog post is linked at the bottom.

I have always been fascinated by the connection between Helena and Hermia. In a play about love and relationships, I think that the friendship and sisterhood between Hermia and Helena is often overlooked. Textually, their relationship quickly evolves from that of two close childhood friends to bitter enemies. How the actors and the director chose to portray this relationship and rationalize why it so quickly falls apart can be incredibly exciting and interesting. Continue reading

Bringing a Magical Forest to Life

 

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

 

1. The start of the process

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Oberon (Stephen Muterspaugh) describes the magic flower to Robin Goodfellow, the Puck (James Lewis).

The decision to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream was made in September, 2017, nearly a year before the first performance. San Francisco Shakespeare’s artistic director and the director for this play, Rebecca J. Ennals, wanted to create a production that was accessible for people from all ages and all levels of Shakespeare experience:

“I’m going to really try and make this a production that people who are seeing Midsummer for the first time can see and totally get. It’s not going to be too clever for them. It’s not going to be too concept-y for them. It’s going to be the play that they might imagine if they were to pick up the play and read it.”

 

Embracing the magic and the fairy world of the show was also important for her. This magical world tends to attract children, creating a more family-friendly show.

“What are the fairies and what is their magic? How are they all around us? One of my favorite moments in the production is when the lovers are fighting and then these little fairies are hanging out watching them and there’s a lot of them, not just Puck and Oberon, but there’s a bunch of other fairies watching too and it’s just the idea that these little invisible beings might be places and as a kid I loved that idea.”

After the decision was made, the next step was to find designers and to cast actors.  

2. The design

What would a show be without the magnificent set, costumes, sound, lights, props, and masks brought to us by our designers? Our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream features a spinning set, nearly 20 different masks, elaborate costumes, original music, and dazzling lights.

In our show, every single fairy and Bottom, when he turns into a donkey, wears a mask designed and created by Kendra Johnson. Some of these masks were created using molds in order to ensure a better fit. Below are the creation processes for two of the masks in the production.

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The mask design process for the character Robin Goodfellow, the Puck, played by James Lewis. Photos courtesy of Kendra Johnson and Jay Yamada.

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The mask design process for the character Nick Bottom, played by Michael Ray Wisely. Photos courtesy of Kendra Johnson and Jay Yamada.

 

Costumes are also important in forming a character. These are four of the many costumes you can see in our show. All of them are designed by Hyun Sook Kim.

Costume fittings

1. Livia Gomes Demarchi as Hippolyta, the Duchess of Athens. 2. Julie Douglas as Snug the Joiner. 3. Caitlin McNeilage as Mulberry, a fairy. 4. Sean Garahan as Francis Flute playing Thisbe. Photos courtesy of Jisaela Tenney and Kira Wotherspoon.

3. The Rehearsal Process

The rehearsal process for this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream lasted approximately 4 weeks. During that time our actors read and worked through Shakespeare’s language, staged their movements, learned the music, practice fight choreography and more. It is during this time that an actor is able to shape their character and better understand how their character operates in the world of the play. The following are a few quotes from our actors on what it’s been like to work on the show:

 

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Amelia Adams (our mask and movement specialist) and Abigail Milnor-Sweetser (who plays Thorn, a fairy) practice an acrobatic lift.

Akaina Ghosh (Lysander and Bluebell): I would say the biggest challenge for me in this production is re-orienting my mind around the character of Lysander because I’ve traditionally thought of Lysander as a male character and this production specifically is making Lysander a non-binary character which is so exciting for me as a non-binary performer but that means that I have to really look at this character in a new light… I get to completely rediscover what Lysander is in this particular production.

 

Sean Garahan (Francis Flute and Mustardseed): I think the biggest challenge for me has been the physicality of the fairies, the world that the fairies live in and making specific choices, choices that I can replicate every show.

Colleen Scallen (Attendant and Mulberry): I love how malleable and open to interpretation it is and I just love the magic and the mystique of it and I think those feed off of each other. What is magic? Magic is something that you can find in anything.

Ed Berkeley (Demetrius): The biggest challenge. There’s a lot of blocking. It’s not necessarily strictly choreographed but there’s so much going on and so much movement so adjusting to everything and remembering everything and going with the momentum. Once the play starts going it’s just fast paced.

4. Tech Week

After months of planning, building, creating, and rehearsing, it’s time to put it all together. During this week, we finally head out to the park where Neal Ormond, our set designer, has assembled the stage. At the park, we’re able to add in the lighting design, work with the microphones, speakers, and recorded sound, rehearse in full costume, and finally perform on the set.

 

 

5. Opening night

Finally, the show is ready to be shared with our audience! Here is some advice from our director, Rebecca Ennals on how to watch the production:

“I would say be childlike in your approach to this production. Just keep this wonderful open mind and relax. If you don’t understand a word, it’s fine. Shakespeare’s audience didn’t understand everything either; he was coining so many words and phrases and making new stuff up all the time so they were just living in a time in a culture where newness, renaissance was going on all the time and so I think they had a different take on the world around things like language and art.”

Designers and Photographers:

Mask Designer – Kendra Johnson

Costume Designer – Hyun Sook Kim

Set Designer – Neal Ormond

Lighting Designer – John Bernard

Photography courtesy of Kendra Johnson, Kalina Ko, Jisaela Tenney, Kira Wotherspoon, and Jay Yamada.

Shakespeare’s Language

FairyBy Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

The language Shakespeare used is complex and can be unfamiliar to modern audiences. 

Take, for example, these first lines of the character, Hippolyta:

“Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;

Four nights will quickly dream away the time;

And then the moon, like to a silver bow

New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night

of our solemnities”

Those five lines are just a very descriptive way of saying “Four days will go by quickly and then we’ll get married at night!” Although very different from the way we speak today, the language used is also an integral part of the beauty of Shakespeare’s plays. Continue reading

A Quick Guide to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By Kalina Ko, Literary Intern

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written by William Shakespeare sometime in the years between 1594-1596. It is considered one of Shakespeare’s comedies and is one of his most widely performed plays. The story has been adapted to many mediums including classical music, ballet, literature, and film.

What is A Midsummer Night’s Dream about?

Continue reading