Monday, November 04, 2013
JULIE TAYMOR'S EXUBERANT MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM INAUGURATES TFANA'S NEW SHAKESPEARE CENTER
Julie Taymor’s entertaining, profound, beautiful, and often amazing production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM inaugurates a terrific new home for Theatre For A New Audience.
THEATRE FOR A NEW AUDIENCE
Polonsky Shakespeare Center
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Directed by Julie Taymor
A MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM - TFANA
David Harewood, Tina Benko, Max Casella and Kathryn Hunter
Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Shakespeare’s words are wonderful, but what provides exceptional grandeur to his A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (MSND) is the opportunity to create magic on stage. Julie Taymor, in the new production inaugurating Theatre For A New Audience's new home, creates a wondrous, visually spectacular production.
Perhaps the most amazing things in the production are the brilliant troupe of young performers; and the fabrics with exquisite projections that provide most of the stage design.
The children (as fairies / “Rude Elementals”, animals, tree trunks, and even children) are infectiously enthusiastic, and skillful in their execution of brilliant routines with dancing, prancing, and even constructing the most evocative forest I’ve ever seen on stage. They are a physical troupe integral to the theatrical performance, not simply an embellishment.
Fabric is used for many stunning moments throughout the performance from lifting characters into the sky, to being the medium which holds beautiful projections of images that set the stage or enhance the story. Aside from the creative brilliance, the technical achievement of getting these moving fabrics to hold high quality, beautiful images is astonishing.
The production is inventive and also a reprise and re-invention of some of Julie Taymor’s signature theatrical devices, including the use of three dimensional space (height/air), variations on puppetry, visual projections, and the use of fabrics to organize the stage design.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM - TFANA
Photo by Es Devlin
Original music by Elliot Goldenthal nicely complements the action.
The acting is excellent, too!
- The beautiful young actress, Lilly Englert -- just out of Stella Adler -- combines a physically exciting performance with a very well spoken rendition of Hermia’s lines. She is an actress on the threshold of a breakout.
- Jake Horowitz, recently graduated from LaGuardia High School, using a more natural voice than the usual Shakespearean mellifluous tones, provides a refreshing and terrific Lysander.
- The majestic David Harewood as Oberon is well matched with a truly regal Tina Benko, as Titania.
- The youthful, loving energy of Lilly and Jake, complemented by the still younger spirit of the Rude Elementals, contrasts perfectly with the mature, royal power of Oberon and Titania.
- The Rude Mechanicals are very funny, and Max Cassela, as Bottom, is especially good.
- The rest of the cast is fine too.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM - TFANA
Zach Appelman, Lilly Englert, Jake Horowitz
Photo by Gerry Goodstein
Still, while this production is superb, I do have some minor quibbles and one serious alert.
- The sub-plot of the changeling is only slightly clearer than usual.
- Note 2013-212-14 Forget this quibble item. I saw the play again tonight and they completely changed the staging of the donkey's head scene just before the intermission. It's terrific now. (Original note:"I found the placement of the intermission awkward (even when you know the play): Just before the intermission, Bottom exits, Puck exits, Bottom returns with a Donkey’s head. Then intermission. And only after the intermission (extra long the night I saw it) does Puck describe what happened. A little business between Puck and Bottom – or at least putting the arrival of the Donkey’s head and Puck’s explanation on the same side of the intermission -- might have been less puzzling.")
- Though Puck is excellent in what she did (some people are calling it the performance of the season!), to my taste I would have preferred a more stylish, more lithe, and more playfully mischievious (sic) Puck, with a more natural puckishness (rather than her skillful artifice).
- Hilarious as it is, I suspect there are even more “obscene” puns and jokes that could have been mined in the performance of Pyramus and Thisbē by the Rude Mechanicals.
- The theater is a marvel of design, and can be extensively reconfigured. In the long rectangular setting used for MSND, it is brilliantly adapted for the staging. However, the further away the actors, the faster they speak, and the more they look away (with the audience sitting on three sides of the stage, no actor can ever be facing everyone) the less clear the dialog becomes.
And one serious note:
- On the night I saw the play, seats in the center mezzanine were not bolted down, and the guard rail was about thigh-high, just right to trip over and fall. While audience members falling from a mezzanine or balcony is a rare event, there is no need to make it easier than it needs to be.
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Julie Taymor has done a brilliant job combining a stunningly visual production with a vocally clear and commanding presentation. It's a glorious production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM that will be remembered as a classic and should not be missed!
Photo by Eric Roffman
* * *
Jeffrey Horowitz is the Founding Artistic Director of the Theatre For A New Audience (TFANA), which began more than thirty years ago, in 1979. Up until now they have performed in a variety of theaters, but not their own.
TFANA'S BEAUTIFUL NEW HOME
Photo by Eric Roffman
The Polonsky Shakespeare Center, the new, permanent home for TFANA, represents many years of development, planning and fundraising. It contains two theaters: the beautiful, highly re-configurable Scripps Mainstage, with 299 seats, and the Rogers Studio with 50 seats. It has attractive, comfortable meeting areas outdoors in an “arts plaza” and on the ground floor. There are plans to have a transmedia-capable electronic message board outside, and to have a café, and a book kiosk.
In addition to its own major, mainstage theatrical performances, TFANA has ambitious plans for training and other programs.
MSND, running through January 12, 2014 is the first play in an exciting inaugural season. It will be followed by KING LEAR, directed by Arin Arbus, starring Michael Pennington, running from March 14 to May 4. Then, Ionesco’s THE KILLER, translated by Michael Feingold, directed by Darko Tesnjak, and featuring Michael Shannon will run from May 17 to June 29, 2014.
The second season will feature THE VALLEY OF ASTONISHMENT, a “research” directed by Peter Brook and Marie Helene Estienne, Christopher Marlowe’s TAMBURLAINE directed by Michael Boyd and featuring John Douglas Thompson, and A DOLLS HOUSE, translated by Thornton Wilder, directed by Arin Arbus, and featuring Juliet Rylance.
With a great start to an important addition to New York Theater, TFANA’s new theater is about a block away from the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). Synergy between the venues is likely to enhance and enrich the Brooklyn neighborhood.
Reaching TFANA from Manhattan is not difficult by subway. Just off Flatbush Avenue, it can also be reached by car easily using either the Brooklyn Bridge or the Manhattan Bridge. (Note: the best approach to the Manhattan Bridge is from the Bowery. Be careful NOT to follow street signs to the Manhattan Bridge BICYCLE lanes.) There is ample parking less than half a block from the theater.
This is a family-friendly show, a great introduction to Shakespeare for children. (Note that it would be helpful, both for children and adults to prepare before the show by knowing the story and even reading, watching a video, or listening to the play. Shakespeare only gets better, the better you know the play.)
This is likely to be remembered as an historic production. Don’t miss it. In fact, with limited seating, limited runs, and terrific shows, grabbing season tickets for the entire inaugural season might be wise.
This entertaining, profound, beautiful, and often amazing production of A Midsummer Nights Dream inaugurates a terrific new home for Theatre For A New Audience.
THEATER AND TICKET INFORMATION
(See below for links and references)
THE POLONSKY SHAKESPEARE CENTER
262 Ashland Street
Brooklyn NY, 11217
(There’s a map here)
Subscriptions for Theatre for a New Audience’s inaugural season are
$147 for a 3-play inaugural season package and
$294 for a 6-play, two-season package,
call (212) 229-2819, ext. 10.
Flex Passes are also available for $208 and include four tickets
to be used in any combination over the inaugural season.
For more information or to subscribe online, please visit
Single tickets are $75.
Tickets may be purchased
online at www.tfana.org or
by phone at 866-811-4111.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through January 1, 2014
Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 7:30pm and
Monday, December 23 at 7:30pm.
EXCEPT: THERE ARE NO 7:30PM EVENING PERFORMANCES
Sundays December 8, 15 and 22 and January 5.
Thursday, November 28;
Tuesdays, December 17 and 24; and
Wednesdays, December 18 and 25.
Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm.
Tuesday, December 24 at 2:00pm;
Wednesdays November 27 at 2:00pm; and January 1 at 2:00pm.
THE SHAKESPEARE SOCIETY
will be holding a discussion about this production
at the theater on Monday, November 18:
SPIRITS OF ANOTHER SORT
Nature, Art and Imagination in
A Midsummer Night's Dream
November 18 at 7pm
At: Theatre for a New Audience
at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center
To celebrate the opening of Theatre for a New Audience's new home and its inaugural production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Julie Taymor with music by Elliot Goldenthal, cast members David Harewood, Tina Benko and Max Casella will join celebrated Oxford professor Jonathan Bate for a lively evening of commentary, performance and conversation. Professor Bate, the award-winning author of The Soul of the Age and The Genius of Shakespeare, will lead a discussion of the nature of fairies in the Elizabethan world and in the play, and will explore how the "airy nothings" of magic, dreams, and imagination effect "translations" that grow to ultimate "constancy" in love and art.
Shakespeare Society MembersContact: Michelle Palmour (email@example.com) or
Call: (212) 967-6802.
LINKS AND REFERENCES
SHAKESPEARE’S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – WIKIPEDIA
SHAKESPEARE’S A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM – FULL TEXT (MIT)
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM ON AMAZON
THEATER FOR A NEW AUDIENCE – HOME PAGE
THEATER FOR A NEW AUDIENCE – WIKIPEDIA
JULIE TAYMOR – WIKIPEDIA
JULIE TAYMOR ON AMAZON
ELLIOT GOLDENTHAL – WIKIPEDIA
DAVID HAREWOOD – WIKIPEDIA
MAX CASELLA – WIKIPEDIA
THE SHAKESPEARE SOCIETY – HOME PAGE
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