These days I’m busy rereading Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I say rereading although I don’t remember reading it the first time. However, I opened it to find highlighting and underlining and the odd corner turned down (something I don’t do anymore and haven’t done for a long time), so I must have read it before, possibly in high school. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a performance of it or a video of it or anything of it other than the small parts shown in Dead Poets Society. (More about that later.) So, next Tuesday I will be heading to Stratford’s Festival Theatre, Stratford, Ontario to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the very first time.
The Festival is putting on two versions of this play as part of their 2014 line-up: the production in the Festival Theatre which began May 17th (the one I will be seeing) and a Chamber production in the Stratford Masonic Concert Hall beginning on July 11th. The cast in the Festival Theatre includes Stephen Ouimette as Bottom, Evan Bullung as Titania/Oberon, Chick Reid as Puck, and Josh Buchwald as the First Fairy along with many others. The chamber version features only 4 actors so will be a radically different production directed by Peter Sellars. I don’t know if I’ll try to go back later in the summer to see the chamber version. It sounds intriguing. For now, I’m looking forward to seeing it the way Shakespeare wrote it, with a full cast and full of magic, changing identities, love and conflicting desires in one night of confusion and misdirection.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the perfect subplot for the movie, Dead Poets Society [Blu-ray]. The atmosphere created in the Indian cave by the new initiates was one of magic, love, and change as well. The character played by Robert Sean Leonard, Neil Perry, comes alive in the language class of Mr. Keating (Robin Williams). Neil has been the quintessential man living a “life of quiet desperation” (Thoreau, quoted in the movie), being deprived by his father of all the creative outlets available at his swanky prep school and channeled into a career he doesn’t want. He is imaginative, becomes ready to see new perspectives, to challenge authority, to find his voice.
Mr. Keating and the Dead Poets Society get Neil “stirred up” and his enthusiasm is infectious. “Carpe diem” becomes his byword. He gets the lead role in the play, forges his father’s signature, and is carried above the mundane into the realm of the imaginary by the magic of Shakespeare’s comedy. He is an inspired Puck. He will have his time on the stage no matter what the consequences and for him, those consequences will be dire indeed. The play is the comedy to the movie’s tragedy. While Puck pleads, “If we shadows have offended,/ Think but this, and all is mended:/ That you have but slumb’red here,/ While these visions did appear”, Neil cannot go back to being ordinary. He has been lifted above the ordinary for one ecstatic evening and to live without the magic would kill his spirit.
An incredible movie; inspirational for teachers, for people who are drawn to the stage, for anyone who has always wanted to step outside of their ordinary life. It makes you think about what you’ve been doing in your own life. If you’ve seen it, watch it again; if you haven’t, do it! It might give you a new perspective on life.