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The Arts Scene

American Shakespeare Center at the Mount

Kathryn Franke
MSM Class of 2013

(1/2012) 2012 is now upon us, and as we welcome in the New Year, many of us are struggling to find that perfect New Yearís resolution. But letís be honest, we all struggle to keep them sometimes. Itís tough to follow through, but this year will without a doubt be differentÖright? Maybe itís going to the gym more often, or volunteering, or even just spending more time with your own family. Regardless of what you decide, letís all make another resolution this year. Resolve to follow through with our resolutions!

Now for all you Mount students out there, if youíre having trouble actually thinking of a resolution, allow me to make a suggestion. Why not enrich yourself in the different cultures and history that the arts can bring? Now the only question is how to start. But fear no more! I have the answer.

Mount Saint Maryís University is proud to host one of the most well known groups performing a play written by one of the most well known authors of all time. Is the suspense getting to be unbearable? Well, here goes nothing! The American Shakespeare Center (ASC) will be performing William Shakespeareís A Midsummer Nightís Dream in the Mountís newly renovated Delaplaine Fine Arts Center.

The ASC will make a stop in our very own Emmitsburg for a three-night performance as a part of their Almost Blasphemy Tour. The performance will be open to all members of the Mount Saint Maryís University community. The performances will take place on January 30th, 31st, and February 1st. Tickets can be purchased by calling (301) 447-5825 or by visiting this website: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/211150. Tickets are $30.

For those of you who arenít familiar with the Fine Arts Center, it is home to the Visual and Performing Arts Department and it contains The Lynne & Joseph Horning Theater and The Thomas H. & Mary K. Williams Art Gallery. It was renovated in May of 2010 to now include the art gallery, a production shop, dressing rooms, improved classroom space, and state of art theater technology. It has surely become a venue that is fitting for such a distinguished group of performers!

Some of you may want to know a little bit about what happens in the play, but for those of you who like to keep it a surprise, I recommend skipping the next two paragraphs (spoiler alert!)

The ASC describes the plot as follows: Theseus, the Duke of Athens, plans his marriage to Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. Egeus complains that his daughter Hermia has fallen in love with Lysander. Theseus then orders Hermia to obey her father and marry Demetrius or she will either be killed or sent to a nunnery. Hermia and Lysander plan to escape to the woods to get married and live off money from Lysanderís rich aunt. Hermiaís friend Helena, who loves Demetrius, reveals their plan to him and Demetrius chases Hermia and Lysander into the woods.

In the woods, Oberon, who is the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, fight over the possession of a changeling boy. Oberon sends Puck to put a spell on Titania so she will fall in love with the first creature she sees after she awakes. Nick Bottom and his fellow workmen come into the woods to rehearse a play for Theseus and Hippolytaís wedding. Puck places a donkeyís head on Bottom, and Titania wakes and quickly falls in love. Oberon tells Puck to put a spell on Demetrius so that he falls in love with Helena, but Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius. As you can see, there is much confusion and coupling in this play, and it is one that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

So what makes this play so captivating? The ASCís website explains, "A Midsummer Night's Dream's theatrical spell is powerful enough to make audiences of all ages believe in anything. Shakespeare's mischievous comedy of lovers, heroes, fairies, and rude mechanicals is his tribute to humankind's power of imagination."

Letís switch gears and see what the director has to say about the play. Kathleen Powers, Guest Director of A Midsummer Nightís Dream, has described the performance as "a kind of nonsense that becomes art." She explains it as, "love, sex, wooing, (spoiler alert!) wedding, upsetting oneís parents, taking the occasional woman by storm (or at least by conquest), magic, moonlight, misunderstanding, transformation, and all the domains that there adjacent lie." Through this play, she claims that we "come to see the rich and multi-faceted ways in which it shows us how ridiculous we are and how essential love is."

Powers also explains that there are "four social strata" in the play, including aristocracy, gentry, laborers, and immortals, which help us "discover a sense of wonder, a sense of play, the fragile relationship between order and chaos, the danger inherent in passions suppressed or denied." She describes Shakespeareís masterpiece as one that "shows us relationships fraying and fracturing, recovering and healing."

This story can hit close to home for many of us, because it draws on the mistakes we all inevitably make in our love lives. Powers explains, "Many of us have made impulsively bad decisions in pursuit of love; we can probably all remember foolishness once upon a summer night. Dreams can be wonderful stuff, but they often careen out of control. Moonlight can be romantic, but it casts shadows." Behind the curtain, we can look much deeper under the surface of things and learn many valuable lessons from this play.

Powers has a deep insight into this play, and she has evaluated the playís message regarding dreams and nightmares. She says, "Both can skew our perceptions in alarming waysÖThe line between a dream and a nightmare can be thin and full of fissures. Is it a nightmare because it ends badly or wakes you with a start? Does it remain a dream because it has a happy ending? When or how does it cross over from one to the other? A happily moonlit playground and a dark, scary forest can be bordered by the same trees."

Never really thought about it that way, now did you? I sure didnít.

In one last comment about the performance, Powers says, "The play is ridiculous, but we hope it is delightfully so, and filled with the rich complexity, wonder, and joy of new love discovered and old love savored." It wouldnít be art if it didnít produce some sort of reaction from its audience! Itís up to you to decide what your reaction will be. So if you want that rewarding feeling from actually following through with your New Yearís resolution, why not make your resolution one that rewards you right back? This performance is one that you surely donít want to miss, and it will have you on your feet cheering for an encore.

The phone number for the venue at Mount Saint Maryís University is (301) 447-5308. For more information about the ASC and the other performances that they will be putting on throughout the year, feel free to visit http://www.americanshakespearecenter.com

Read other articles on the local arts scene by Kathryn Franke