Shakespeare is a dream on a midsummer night

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By Sara Miller

Some of my first and greatest memories of Shakespeare were of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. I was a youthful theatergoer — maybe 11 or 12 — and too young to be intimidated by the alleged inaccessibility of Shakespeare’s works.

As the theatrical smoke trickled off the stage and into my nostrils and Titania’s fairies rested snugly in their leaf hammocks, I was transported to a dreamlike wonderland — a world where fairy tale meets lovers’ tale and where mortal meets magical. It was at this moment that I realized Shakespeare wasn’t always given a fair shake.
Like many of the Bard’s masterpieces, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” doesn’t require a doctorate in English literature to make it amazing. It does require a playful disposition, a willingness to jump into a realm of humor and heartache, and a readiness to believe that all the world truly is a stage on which we will likely recognize ourselves and all those around us.
The adult company of StageDoor Theater in Conifer is preparing to transport our mountain community to the same magical place with their upcoming production. Opening on June 10, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be the first main-stage production of Shakespeare at StageDoor. The show is directed by Jay Louden, a professor of theater at Metropolitan State College of Denver. Louden, like me, never bought into the myth that Shakespeare is intimidating, and tailors his productions to accentuate the accessibility of the work.
“We’re doing the show in a contemporary style,” Louden says. “The language is all the same, but we have some modern-day references. Theseus, for example is similar to Bill Gates — a software tycoon taking over a smaller company. Lysander and Hermia are a little bit edgy and alternative in our interpretation.”
The cast is a nice mix of StageDoor veterans and newcomers to our mountain theatrical scene. A slew of students followed Louden up the hill to audition, and at least 10 of the cast and crew are twenty-somethings from Metro State. The full cast is 21 members strong and captures the youthful exuberance that Shakespeare intended for the show’s lovers and sprites.
Enjoyment of Shakespeare is as much about the visual and aural experience as it is the intellectual interpretation. StageDoor’s production is filled with wonders for the eyes and ears. The sets were created with landscaping materials such as hemp cloth and corrugated greenhouse roofing fashioned to do double duty as the show’s verdant forest and royal palace.
In addition to his acting and directing credits, Louden is certified by the National Society of Fight Choreographers and has choreographed an intricate lovers’ quarrel in Act Two.
“This is very physical show,” Louden says. “We have to communicate the ideas of the play with the action as well as the text. Even if audiences don’t understand every word that’s being said, the physicality of the production allows the messages to be conveyed.”
Louden’s interpretation demonstrates that Shakespeare can be enjoyed on many levels. Be it pageantry and hilarity in the romps of the spellstruck tinker-turned-donkey or a deeper examination of the trials of human love and mortality, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is the perfect inaugural Shakespearean production at StageDoor. Don’t miss it — it will be the best dream you have all summer, midsummer or otherwise.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Presented by StageDoor Theatre, 25797 Conifer Road in Conifer
June 10-25; Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Tickets: adults, $14; students and seniors, $10.
For more information or to reserve tickets, call 800-838-3006 or visit www.stagedoortheatre.org.