Sunday, October 11, 2015

Midsummer Nights and dreaming

In order to pass my lighting class, I have to work a certain number of lab hours doing lighting related things.  My instructor is also the lighting director for the first faculty-directed show this season, so I've been racking up my hours hanging lights and running the light board for A Midsummer Night's Dream.

For those of you who have never done theatrical stuff, running a light board is not very exciting.  It consists of sitting in front of a large panel with many buttons and switches, one of which is labeled GO.  You peer down on the stage from the booth, in the company of the sound guy and the stage manager, who is wearing a headset and peering at the script.  When the stage manager says "lighting cue XYZ, standby," you hover your finger over the GO button.  When she says "lighting cue XYZ, go," you hit the button.  That's about it.  I push that button like a champion.

In order to stay awake, I pay attention to the show.  I've always liked this particular play, and know a lot of it off the top of my head because it was the focus of a theater class I took when I was 11 or so (let's not talk about how it's an incredibly filthy play and not for children).  This particular production is set in the Wild West, which is sort of interesting.  "Duke" Theseus owns the local tavern, Lysander's got a sort of ranch-hand thing going on in contrast to city-boy Demetrius,  the Rude Mechanicals meet at the old mine to rehearse their crappy play, and the Fairies have a Native spirits sort of vibe- "Wakinyan" and "Ptesanwi" battle over the changeling boy while "Maca Coyote" enchants the Foolish Mortals and generally makes a mess of things.  

I'm all for making interesting changes to old standards.  Watching the show over and over, I started thinking..... if I was in charge, what weird tweaks might I personally find interesting?  Hmmm....

Short fat Hermia, tall skinny Helena.  Their height difference is canon, but they're usually both slender.  Two dudes fighting over the love of a short fat chick?  You don't see that very often on stage.  I'm not talking stocky, either.  I'm talking fat.  Beautiful.  Desirable.  Spherical.  Or fat Lysander.  Let's see something other than taut lovers.  It's getting boring.

Genderswap Oberon and Titania.  A fairy king who won't give up the baby?  A fairy queen casting spells to make her lover fall in love with a monster?  A fairy king fawning all over with a man who has a donkey's head?  The donkey-man being into it?  Go for it.  Might be interesting.  See what happens.

Genderswap Bottom.  Let a woman chew the scenery and ham it up.  Makes the interactions with Titania less routine, and gives Flute even more reason to complain about being cast as Thisbe.

Scary fairies.  No flitting, no floaty hands.  Sharp pointy teeth.  Claws.  Guttural noises.  When Bottom wakes up to find Titania groping him, he's not smitten.  He's afraid he'll get eaten if he doesn't go along with it.  Let's add a little darkness.  Puck's doing some deeply unsettling things anyway.

Non-white people.  Shakespeare can get a little.... monochromatic.  Let's get the full human spectrum in there.  Black Titania.  Latino Theseus.  Vietnamese Egeus and Hermia.  Pakistani Puck.  Cast a whole show without white people.  Why not?  

Play it as the unending dick joke that it is.  The whole thing is thinly veiled smut.  Shakespeare's audience might have understood the puns, but unless someone adds some nudge-nudge-wink-wink-say-no-more, the modern audience thinks it's just a sweet silly play about love and fairies.  

Let John Waters direct it.  You know you would have paid good money to see Divine play Titania.  Gone too soon, gone too soon.  RIP Divine.

What's your favorite Shakespeare play?  What's your favorite weird casting choice?  


  1. I like the idea of changing things up, all for it!

    I love scary faeries, they feature in some of my stories, need to hurry up and finish them!

    Enjoy the lighting board! Do you alternate fingers or always use the same one? Do you get RSI in your finger? I actually need to know this now!

    1. It's not that frequent. I hit the button once every few minutes on average, except a few times where I hit it 7 times in a minute and a half. No RSI. Just

    2. Hmmm not too bad. I had a data entry job once and would get such bad RSI I could not move my fingers at the end of the day from the repetitive mouse clicking!

  2. I recently saw a BBC production of Hamlet with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart, but they wore modern dress and used the typical Elizabethan English. So it seemed like The Doctor and Picard were travelling through time and got lost.

    1. There's some linguist with an actor son who's worked out what spoken English would have sounded like in Shakespeare's day.... time traveling would sound weird, apparently.

    2. I think I saw that special on PBS. and I like all your ideas. now we need to find you a sugar daddy to fund your creativity and not expect fringe benefits

  3. Replies
    1. Me too! I failed my AP english exam writing about it, but I still like it and the witches and all the great quotes.

  4. (Ah! Reminiscing about my short stint running "the spot" in college.)

    I really enjoyed your post - it was quite thought provoking! Made me think about it, and I realized, I'm a ridiculous traditionalist. I could watch Midsummer's forever and ever - in its traditional form. I'm not sure I would like the Midwestern twist to it, or any unusual setting or twist! I'm sort of embarrassed to admit that. Although, I DO love your idea of scary faeries!

    I wonder what this indicates about my character? I don't think I'm a traditionalist when it comes to much else!