An Outsider’s Perspective

Study for The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by...
Study for The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Noel Paton: fairies in Shakespeare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just came home from opening night at the Indiana Reperatory Theatre‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I gave it a glowing review, but I wanted to comment on a technique they used which made the play more accessible. (And let’s be honest, Shakespeare often unnecessarily intimidates potential audiences, just because of the language and reputation.)

So director Peter Amster used an outsider to give the audience insight. It’s a very common technique, seen in everything from The Wizard of Oz to Avatar to Three Hearts and Three Lions; because we’re following a character which doesn’t already understand the different world he’s suddenly found himself in and has to learn it on the fly, we can pick up what we need as we go as well.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream accomplishes this with a little boy playing with a toy theater as his parents fight and then falling asleep to dream — we think — the play. The boy starts as an observer and gradually becomes more and more involved in the action, until he becomes the little boy over whom Oberon and Titania are fighting. Don’t worry, it works far better than it sounds; my only regret about the show was that I didn’t pop up faster for a standing ovation (and I don’t stand as a matter of course).

Sir Edwin Landseer: Scene From A Midsummer Nig...
Sir Edwin Landseer: Scene From A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania and Bottom (1848) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nothing can be accessible to everyone, though, and during intermission I overheard two women arguing whether the magicked Nick Bottom was a rabbit or a lion. /sigh/ I guess all the “ass” puns went by a bit too quickly.

…Have I ever told you my elder Doberman is named Shakespeare? He was even on the stage, playing Sandy in two productions of Annie.

Doberman Shakespeare
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