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'A Midsummer Night's Dream' Performed at Barber Theater May 21-30

Award-winning director David H. Bell to direct musical version of Bard’s classic comedy

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May 20, 2010 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare's rollicking fantasy of ardent lovers, bumbling actors and conjuring fairies, is recreated against the backdrop of social revolution and sensuality in 1959 New Orleans by the Theatre and Interpretation Center (TIC) of Northwestern University.

With sleight of hand that subverts the line between dreams and reality, Laurence Olivier Award-nominated and Jeff Award-winning director David H. Bell creates a modern world at once musical and magical, raucous and outrageous, where reveries threaten to become a darkly sensuous nightmare.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday, May 21, 8 p.m. Saturday, May 22; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 23; 8 p.m. Thursday, May 27; 8 p.m. Friday, May 28; 8 p.m. Saturday, May 29; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 30, at the Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, on the University's Evanston campus. Post-show discussions with the show's cast members and creative team will follow the May 23 matinee and May 27 evening performances.

Northwestern's production of the classic comedy features seven original songs written for the show, with music by Dan Green and Matt Edmonds and lyrics by Bell. These new tunes are performed live by 11 musicians who are part of the show's 28-member student cast.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" tells the stories of a father who condemns his daughter to death for not choosing the proper husband; a jealous husband who "enchants" his wife to fall in love with an ass; and lovers who are magically induced to love someone they do not. All the action on stage is in celebration of the wedding of a conqueror and his "spoil of war."

Bell sets ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream' in the late 1950s, at a time when America is emerging from the cloud of McCarthy era conformism and in a place where the sultry sounds of jazz and blues are the backdrop to a wild sensual playground.

"The night in exile that our principal characters spend in the forest is as much an erotic nightmare as it is a dream," said Bell, who last year was named the Donald G. Robertson Director of Music Theatre at Northwestern's School of Communication. "Yet, by enduring a Midsummer Eve of confusion, terror, danger and enchantment, they liberate the part of themselves that will allow them to be happy."

Bell's concept for the TIC staging is influenced by London director Peter Brook's legendary production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Originally produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1968, it moved in 1970 to Broadway, where Bell said he was lucky to attend a performance.

"It changed every preconception I had about Shakespeare," said Bell.

Bell also was inspired by the swing music of three successful 1930s era Broadway musicals -- "The Boys from Syracuse," "The Swing Mikado" and "The Hot Mikado" (which starred actor and tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson).

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is recommended for audiences aged 16 and older. The production's running time is two hours and 25 minutes, including a 10-minute intermission.

Single tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors aged 65 and older, and Northwestern faculty and staff and area educators and administrators; and $10 for full-time students. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more.

Single and group tickets may be purchased by phone through the TIC Box Office at (847) 491-7282 or online at http://www.tic.northwestern.edu.