Part of the company of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Photo by Peter Vitale
There aren't any fairies in Ten Thousand Things' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Oh, Puck and company are there, but they've gone through a name change.
Director Michelle Hensley knew that the term wasn't going to fly with the theater's prison audiences. Shakespeare also refers to the characters as "goblins" in the text. Same meaning, same number of syllables, and presto, new name.
But that's not the only difference you'll see in this production.
"It's a pretty misogynistic play, but I found a really fun way to subvert that and make it palatable to a modern audience," Hensley says.
The company of eight actors -- six women and two men -- takes on all of the different roles, from lovers to goblins to rude mechanicals. They often find themselves on decidedly different sides of the equation.
The small company means that "each actor is a noble lover and a rude mechanical and a goblin. That's a hook into the play for me," Hensley says.
For example, Gavin Lawrence plays Theseus, the duke who plans to force Hippolyta to marry him.
"When we get to the goblin world, Gavin plays Titania. He gets to experience things from a woman's point of view, and sees the humiliation that Titania goes through," says Hensley, adding that the same actor, Sun Mee Chomet, plays Hippolyta and Oberon, Titania's husband. "At the end of the play, Theseus is really kind and generous and respectful of Hippolyta in a way he isn't in the first part of the play."
Beyond that, there is the theme at the heart of the play. "A lot of Ten Thousand Things' audience might relate to the idea of how it seems like you sleepwalk through life. Every so often you wake up and things have changed. Someone you used to love you now hate. Someone you used to hate you now love. I'm in prison. How did that happen?" Hensley says. "You can relate to all of these characters in the play who find that their world has changed. It gets multiplied with the actors jumping from the different worlds."
Seeing the play through new eyes -- many of Ten Thousand Things audiences are non-traditional -- has also helped to open it up. "The rude mechanicals are less hysterical to the non-traditional audience. They are responding with 'If I got up onstage, that is what I would do.' This part will resonate more with our veteran theater audiences," Hensley says.
Those veteran audiences will find a production that is "not like any Midsummer Night's Dream they have ever seen. The way we have mixed the casting up and the fact that it is so bare bones. They are compelled to use their imaginations," says Hensley.
IF YOU GO:
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Open Book, 1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 1.800.838.3006 or visit online.