Tonight, one of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies will come to life before a Yale audience.
The Yale Dramatic Association’s Spring Mainstage, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opens tonight at the University Theatre. Directed by Stephen Kaliski, the show follows the story of four young Athenians in a dream-like setting full of fairies and love potions. Kaliski explained that the creative team aimed to retain the traditional meaning of the play while interpreting it in an original manner.
“It is intimidating at first to put on Shakespeare productions like these because they have been done so many times and have been done so well,” Kaliski said. “The question for us was ‘How do we reclaim this play for ourselves?’”
Dramat President Jonathan Lian ’15 said that the play was chosen as this season’s Spring Mainstage partly because the Dramat had not staged any Shakespeare productions as mainstages in a long time, adding that the show’s comedic nature provides a contrast to the recent slew of emotionally heavy Mainstage productions.
The storyline of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” centers on the relationships between the characters Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius. While the two men are initially in love with Hermia, their feelings change once the four enter the dream world, where the jester Puck’s love spell accidentally leads both men to fall in love with Helena instead.
Kaliski noted that the comedic aspect of the play lies in the fickle nature of love in young people, adding that while the main characters all believe that they know how love works, the reality is that romantic interests can change more quickly than people think.
“Love can dart from person to person in a heartbeat,” Kaliski said.
Lian said “Midsummer” features a broad range of interesting roles for actors of both genders and that the production has high technical potential, explaining that the show will be able to take advantage of the University Theatre’s advanced technological capabilities.
Assistant director Irina Gavrilova ’17 and lights crew member Eliza Robertson ’17 said the production’s set design features elaborate visual elements. Gavrilova said many pieces of the set will frequently be in motion, flying on and off the stage depending on the scene.
Robertson described a curtain of hanging light bulbs that will also be prominently featured in the show, noting that many different types of equipment are required to make this one visual element work properly.
Kaliski explained that the play’s setting in the first and final acts will resemble a modern-day park instead of a place in ancient Greece. These acts, traditionally set in Athens, have been replaced with a newly-written prologue and epilogue that allow the plot to unfold in a ‘dream world.’
Fleming and Kaliski both noted that the production highlights the idea that the seemingly insignificant objects of everyday life can become extremely important in dreams. Kaliski offered the example of a park worker picking up toilet paper in the early stages of the show. He explained that once the characters enter the dream world, the toilet paper becomes the scroll upon which the acting troupe writes the play they plan to perform.
Lucy Fleming ’16, who plays Helena, added that her character, who is seen reading a book at first, eventually wears a costume made entirely out of book pages in the dream world.
“You just have to focus on the text and let the words carry the show,” Fleming said.
The last performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will take place Feb. 22.