From July 21st to September 3rd, A Canadian Stage production presented a Shakespeare favourite at the High Park Amphitheatre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Celebrating 40 years, this production, directed by Jamie Robinson, an assistant professor in the theatre program, involved many other York community members. Robinson has been a professional theater artist for 26 years and explains that it is a joy to have the opportunity to combine his love of the outdoors and theatre in this outdoor performance.
“I first performed Shakespeare outdoors in Montreal for Repercussion Theatre while I was an undergrad at Concordia University, and I’ve been continuing that trend ever since. This is my fifth time working on a show in High Park, and my first time working on A Midsummer Night’s Dream here, so that is exciting and new,” says Robinson.
Robinson says that during a Shakespeare symposium that he co-curated at York called (Re) Casting Shakespeare in Canada, a theme that was reiterated discussed how Shakespeare’s work be fluidly translated and adapted to reach modern theatre-goers, and that he would be surprised to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed exactly how it was during its first performance.
“We are in an age where some of the troubling language that often appears in Shakespeare’s colonial texts should be allowed to be manipulated to speak to audiences of today, while maintaining the beautiful poetry that continues to draw audiences worldwide,” says Robinson.
Jackie Chau, an incoming design professor and designer for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, reflects this sentiment, saying, “This is a great intro to Shakespeare, especially for very young people. The production is really clear with language and execution. It was the first time my 10-year-old daughter saw Shakespeare live, and she really enjoyed it.”
For Chau, a big highlight of her experience is to see the colours of the design come to life, as well as to work with great artists and craftspeople.
Eden Ulnik, a fourth-year theatre student, filled the role of assistant research director for this production. Ulnik explains there were two main exciting aspects of being involved in this production, saying that, “one was the pre-rehearsal work where Jamie, Jordan (the assistant director), and I met up to dream, to cultivate, and to dissect ideas for the play. It felt very thrilling to be part of this idea-making process and the groundwork. The other exciting part happened during rehearsals which was learning and observing how Jamie and the performers worked together. This was very crucial for me as I learned from Jamie’s open-handed and collaborative process.”
“A challenging aspect for me was Shakespeare’s text. I did not start this process as someone who reads Shakespeare often or understands it. I found, as a person with a learning disability, dyslexia, and language impairment, it is harder for me and takes me longer to understand written text. However, seeing it in live-action through the performers’ views, Jamie’s view, and even the design view helped me see what this play was saying,” adds Ulnik.
Even though this performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is reduced to just over 90-minutes without an intermission, Robinson adds that the action never stops, and that, “it is a comedy, with subtle contemporary themes that I won’t give away, but I can say that our fairy world is something you will not have seen in any other production of this classic!”
Ulink adds that, “Shakespeare can truly be for anyone even if you don’t know it well or you’re not even a big fan. The work can still be mended and made relevant to anyone that wants to play with it.”
To learn more about this production, click here.