This year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and productions of his work are still being made across the globe to commemorate and celebrate his mastery of the English language.
Taking on Shakespeare’s playful and innovative spirit, some companies are revamping the Bard’s work by reimagining roles and settings in order to give audiences a fresh spin on Shakespeare.
This is exactly what TheatreUSF is doing for their annual British International Theatre (BRIT) Program production. This year, they are bringing Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” into 21st century America. Richard Beecham and Alice Malin are directing the play as part of the BRIT program.
“It’s still fantastical and crazy,” Beecham said. “It’s not a literal representation of Florida, but it’s using elements of modern day Florida to make the play sing out to a modern audience.”
TheatreUSF’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” takes place on a Florida beach. The fairies are ravers, and their kingdom is a fluorescent beach party made complete with a disco ball. Instead of craftsmen, a chain gang undergoing drama therapy will perform for Theseus, who is a sheriff in this modernized version of the play.
The four young lovers, Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius, are portrayed as college students.
“Shakespeare was writing for the people,” Ashley Emrick, who is playing Helena in the production, said. “Bringing it into the 21st century reminds people it is for everybody.”
The timelessness of Shakespeare’s work stems from the ubiquity of its subject matters. Themes of love and heartbreak in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” allow for creativity in setting without infringing upon the work’s original meaning.
“It’s about something that we all hopefully experience in our lives which is the madness and giddiness of love,” Beecham said. “So, it’s really truthful about something really key to human condition.”
While the setting in this production is changed, the original Shakespearian language is the same.
“There is something really playful and enjoyable about the clash between the classical language and the modernity of its setting and presentation,” Beecham said.
Part of the cast’s preparation for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” included learning techniques specific to performing Shakespearian language.
“The emotions that the actor puts behind (the work) is often raw and unbridled,” Landon Leyland, who is taking on the role Demetrius, said. “So when you have to chain them in with this structure that Shakespeare has laid out for you it creates a very interesting play space.”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will run Feb. 18-20 and Feb. 25-27 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 21 and 28 at 3:00 p.m. in Theatre 2 on campus. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for non-students.