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  • Shakespeare Popular and Populist
  • Douglas E. Green
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Presented by the Guthrie Theater on the Wurtele Thrust Stage, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota. April 12–June 22, 2008. Directed by Joe Dowling. Set by Frank Hallinan Flood. Costumes by Paul Tazewell. Lighting by Jane Cox. Music composed and directed by Keith Thomas. Sound by Scott W. Edwards. Dramaturgy by Michael Lupu. Voice and language consulting by Andrew Wade. Fight and aerial effects directed by John Stead. Movement coaching by Marcela Lorca. Stage management by Russell W. Johnson. With Nic Few (Theseus, Oberon), Emily Swallow (Hippolyta, Titania), Kathryn Lawrey (Hermia), Valeri Mudek (Helena), William Sturdivant (Lysander), Jonas Goslow (Demetrius), Namir Smallwood [Sherwin F. Resurreccion, understudy] (Puck, Philostrate), Stephen Pelinski (Bottom), Randy Reyes (Francis Flute), Jim Lichtscheidl (Peter Quince), Richard S. Iglewski (Snout), Sally Wingert (Starveling), Stephen Yoakam (Snug), Nathaniel Fuller (Egeus), Erin Cherry (First Fairy), and others.
Richard III Presented by Ten Thousand Things Theater Company at Open Book and the Minnesota Opera Company (pay performances), as well as at Dorothy Day Center, Ramsey County and Hennepin County Men’s and Women’s Corrections, and other venues (free), Twin Cities area, Minnesota. October 18–November 18, 2007. Directed by Michelle Hensley. Percussion by Heather Barringer and Erik Barsness. Sets by Stephen Mohring. Costumes by Kathy Kohl. Assistant direction by Nancy Waldoch. Puppets by Julian McFaul. Stage combat by Don Preston. With Bob Davis (Richard), Shawn Hamilton (Buckingham, Richmond, Second Murderer), Craig Johnson (Hastings, Duchess of York, Oxford), Jim Lichtscheidl (Lady Anne, Tyrrel, Edward IV, Prince Edward), Luverne Seifert (Queen Elizabeth, Brakenbury, Ely, Lord Mayor), Richard Ooms (Margaret, Clarence, Lord Stanley), and Darien Johnson (Rivers, Young York, Catesby).

A distinction between popular and populist theatre was evident this season in two Minneapolis Shakespeare productions: the Guthrie Theater’s [End Page 68] remounting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, originally produced in 1997, and Ten Thousand Things’ all-male Richard III. Both were directed by their respective companies’ artistic directors.

Joe Dowling’s recent productions of Hamlet, As You Like It, and, in their new venue designed by Jean Nouvel, The Merchant of Venice, have evinced his guiding principle as artistic director of the Guthrie: accessibility. As head of arguably the most prominent regional theatre in the upper Midwest, Dowling has an understandable penchant for producing popular Shakespeare: most people here admit that his ability to draw audiences has helped to secure the Guthrie’s new digs overlooking the Mississippi, with three stages under the same roof as opposed to one. But lots of Shakespeare aficionados, amateur and professional, myself among them, have been carping at or at least privately lamenting Dowling’s tendency to oversimplify Shakespeare, to avoid risks in developing Shakespeare productions. We keep asking, What about nuance? What about “art”? The latest production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream offered Dowling’s retort: popular Shakespeare makes good Shakespeare; the two are not at odds.

The Guthrie Dream engaged the audience through spectacle, music, and movement; lively young actors; and lightness of touch. As in its original mounting, Oberon and other fairies made various entrances on wires; movement, often to music, was lively yet graceful. Keith Thomas’s music was eclectic, ranging from Goth and industrial to R & B and even Disney-style showstoppers, all based on verses from the text. At one point Stephen Pelinski’s Bottom mimicked Elvis. Puck and the Fairies alternated between punk and R & B; First Fairy Erin Cherry did a knockout job with some Shakespearean verses in the latter style, which Puck found very appealing (2.1). Except for Bottom and the mechanicals, as well as Egeus, the cast appeared exceptionally youthful—even, at least comparatively, in the cases of Oberon and Titania, who doubled as the more strait-laced Theseus and Hippolyta. The “rude mechanicals” were most reminiscent of the original 1997 production—homespun “Minnesotan” community wannabes determined to play before the Duke. There were some very witty touches here, most notably the awkward, middle-aged flirtation between Sally Wingert’s Starveling and Jim Lichtscheidl’s Quince, and the latter’s frustration and futile attempts to control Bottom. But the truly novel and crowd-pleasing business was provided by Randy Reyes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 68-72
Launched on MUSE
2008-08-29
Open Access
No
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