Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Midsummer Night's Dream History Lesson

A lively production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream last night at Monmouth College's Fusion Theatre has led me to dream a bit about past Midsummer productions.

I was reminded initially that A Midsummer Night's Dream  is the most frequently produced of all of Shakespeare's plays. Then a quick look at a Monmouth production list determined that the college has produced it at least five times over the years.  This, I believe, makes it the single most produced play in MC history as well.

I cannot vouch for the total accuracy of the list I have consulted, but it shows that A Midsummer Night's Dream was first produced by the college  in June of 1906 at the Pattee Opera house in downtown Monmouth. It was directed by Gertrude Henderson and was listed as in honor of a
"Semi-Centennial" celebration. The aforementioned Ms. Henderson was definitely a Shakespeare buff because she also directed a production of As You Like It as the Senior Class Play in 1905.

It took until June, 1932 for the second "Midsummer" production to appear.  It was directed by Professor Ruth Williams, the founder of Crimson Masque and the person who secured the "old gym" for use as a theatre after the Waid Gym was constructed. The show was listed as the senior class play and was performed outdoors in "Valley Beautiful."  This bucolic spot  down the hill from Wallace Hall has long since been  filled  the student center, and parking lots.

Time does fly when you are having fun so we have to jump another thirty years before MC audiences could see another production of  A Midsummer Night's Dream.  It was May, 1966 and Dr. Jim De Young directed that production  in  the so called Red Barn or Little Theatre.   It was given a generally classical interpretation as you can see from the picture below..

Dr. De Young returned for a directing encore in Production #4  that came along in 1991 in the then new Wells Theatre. This time the show was set in the roaring 20's .  It had flapper music and a  Great Gatsby flavor.  It also had live dogs and  (see picture) and a student playing one of the fairies whose mother played the same role in the  1966 production.

Which brings us to production number five in October of 2018.  Professor Todd Quick, the director,  put the production on a 3/4  Shakespearian style stage and cut the script to to be performed in one act by an energetic small group of actors doubling in several of the roles. It was fun filled, fast paced, and laced with plenty of belly laughs.  You can still catch it Sunday afternoon  Oct. 28, 2018 at the Fusion Theatre in downtown Monmouth.

I end with a final quirky observation.  Monmouth College has produced A Midsummer Night's Dream five times since 1906 and each time it was done in a different venue--The Pattee Opera House,  Outdoors in  Valley Beautiful,  The Little Theatre, The Wells Theatre, and finally the Fusion Theatre.  This show gets around--even in Monmouth.   


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