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MCT Proposal - A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream by W. Shakespeare

Modern verse translation by Jeffrey Whitty

Directed by Robert Leff


Play Synopsis

Tony Award–winning and Oscar-nominated storyteller Jeffrey Whitty offers his adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, mindfully adapted into modern language. Matching the Bard line for line, rhyme for rhyme, Whitty illuminates Shakespeare’s meaning for modern audiences while maintaining the play’s storytelling architecture, emotional texture, and freewheeling humor. Designed to supplement, not supplant, the original, Whitty’s Midsummer cuts through the centuries to bring audiences a fresh, moment-by-moment take, designed to flow as effortlessly for modern audiences as Shakespeare’s beloved classic played to the Elizabethans.

From Folger Shakespeare Library: “In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare stages the workings of love. Theseus and Hippolyta, about to marry, are figures from mythology. In the woods outside Theseus’s Athens, two young men and two young women sort themselves out into couples—but not before they form first one love triangle, and then another.

Also in the woods, the king and queen of fairyland, Oberon and Titania, battle over custody of an orphan boy; Oberon uses magic to make Titania fall in love with a weaver named Bottom, whose head is temporarily transformed into that of a donkey by a hobgoblin or 'puck,' Robin Goodfellow. Finally, Bottom and his companions ineptly stage the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe."


Vision Statement

I'm proposing this play because it is well-known, funny and needs are large cast.


Why use this "version?"

FAQ from Play on Shakespeare Website:

What is the difference between “translation” and “adaptation?”

“An adaptation is a version of a play that takes the concepts of the original play and puts your own spin on it. For example, the film Ten Things I Hate About You is a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Our translations, however, leave all of the given circumstances in Shakespeare’s original works while making the text more accessible to modern audiences. We aim to celebrate Shakespeare’s masterworks by learning as much as we can about them and by supporting our audience’s understanding of the language while hearing and watching the plays. Our goal was never to reinvent the plays or make changes for their own sake. We ask our writers to take all the accepted given circumstances—character, story, action, etc.—and examine Shakespeare’s language line by line, applying the same kind of rigor and pressure that he did to his language. In fact, in all of our translations, about 80% of the original language is still intact. The original plays differ enough linguistically from one another that there is no option for cookie-cutter rules; every playwright must uphold meter, rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, rhetoric, and theme of the original play. While we do support adaptations of Shakespeare, our translations focus on accessibility rather than adaptation."


This production of A Midsummer Night's Dream will be family friendly. For some audience members and some actors, Shakespeare’s language is a barrier to their understanding and enjoyment of the play. I want to use Jeffery Whitty’s translation to bridge the barrier. Mr. Whitty’s work is not like No Fear Shakespeare; it’s still Shakespeare.

As I was getting ready for my annual trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, my father would always ask, “Why do you keep going, you’ve seen all the plays?” My answer was, “The story is the same; the productions are different.” How will my production of this popular and well-known play be different?


A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play about love. One critic writes that Shakespeare use Double Vision in the script: city and wood, day and night, reason and imagination, waking life and dream. Another critic writes, "The play is a dream about watching a play about dreams." Both comments are my guides for the production. It will feel like a dream. Like many dreams, there are scary, uncomfortable scenes/moments in the text which in production will not be ignored, but they will not dominate the show.


To give more of a sense of the production, here are my thoughts on the characters. The fairies are immortal and always there. They create the chaos and confusion in the woods. I plan to cast actors ranging in age between 65 and 80. Actors will be the age; not play the age. Specifically, how characters move will be based on how the actors move in the world. They won’t have wings.


Bottom and Company provide comedy, but Shakespeare doesn’t make fun of them. Keep in mind, Bottom is the only mortal who sees the fairies. Bottom and Company remind of people in community theaters. Peter Quince is the leader and playwright; Nick Bottom is the “Grande Dame.” I would actors ranging in age from late 20s to early 50s. The Court - By the book; at times pompous. Age range 30-40.


NOTE - IN MANY PRODUCTIONS, THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA AND PHILOSTRATE ALSO PLAY OBERON, TITANIA AND PUCK. I don’t plan to do this.


HERMIA, HELENA, DEMETRIUS, LYSANDER - They are teenagers in love. They’re rebellious. They are the center of the play. Their scene, Act III Scene 2, is the longest in the script, Age range, 16-18.


One more thing - When the audience enters the auditorium, the only thing on stage will be a bed with a young child, 9 or 10 or 11 or 12, sleeping and dreaming. As the play begins the child will enter the dream world. The child will play the changeling child. The actor will also be part of other scenes. In the final moments of the production, the bed will be back in its original space with the child sleeping. The last beat will be the child waking up safe in bed. The germinal idea comes from “Little Nemo in Dreamland.” Little Nemo is a fictional character created by American cartoonist Winsor McCay. He originated in an early comic strip by McCay, Dream of the Rarebit Fiend, before receiving his own spin-off series, Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-1911). The full-page weekly strip depicted Nemo having fantastic dreams that were interrupted by his awakening in the final panel. The cartoon will not be used as the look of the show. It is very racist.


Adding other attendants, fairies and lord is possible.


Supplemental Materials

This a long interview with Jeffrey Whitty about the translation and other things.


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