Butler Theatre students prepare to perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on Feb. 28. Photo by Peter Larson.
JULIA BLUHM | ASST. CULTURE EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, Butler Theatre will perform Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in Clowes Hall for one time only.
The classic comedy, involving mistaken identities, bewildered lovers and magical fairies, will mark the first performance Butler Theatre has done in Clowes Hall in 17 years.
Butler Theatre decided to do a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” because of the opportunity to perform Shakespeare, which the department typically does every few years, as well as the humor and physicality of the performance.
Diane Timmerman, Butler theatre professor, said she thinks the humor in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” makes it enjoyable for a wide range of audience members.
“Midsummer is fun. It’s a wonderful piece; people love it,” she said. “We wanted to do a comedy and do something lighter.”
The department also wanted to choose a performance that has the potential to be utilized for outreach programs for local elementary school children in Indianapolis.
After the public show on Feb. 28, there will be two student outreach matinees at 9:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. the following day. These performances allow local children to experience the show, as well as many of their first times ever being in a professional theater. Students attending will also be given a tour of Lily Hall and Butler’s theater spaces.
Timmerman said she hopes to inspire and educate some students, as well as give them a taste of Butler’s campus.
“A lot of the students coming to the shows might not see college as a possibility for their future, so we really want them to feel at home coming to Butler and on a college campus,” she said.
This is not the first time the theatre department has done outreach programs for local schools. And it’s also not the first time they’ve done Shakespeare. They’ve performed “Romeo and Juliet”, “As You Like it”, and “Twelfth Night” over the past few years to name a few. But this production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is special in one major way: its venue.
Clowes Hall is considerably larger than the performance spaces — like Schrott Center for the Arts and Lily Hall’s Studio Theater — that the theatre department has typically used over the past 17 years.
Timmerman said that, due to advances in technology and the wide appeal of this particular show, performing in Clowes will be a great opportunity.
“Body mics have come a long way in 17 years. You know, the space was constructed for ballet, opera and orchestra,” she said. “But now we feel we really have the equipment to occupy the space, so we really wanted to come back in and do that.”
Senior theatre major Jeffrey Bird, who will play ‘Bottom,’ one of the major roles in this production, agreed that performing in Clowes is a great, yet somewhat daunting, opportunity.
“The exciting challenge about being in Clowes is that nothing can be small,” he said. “It’s like, you know, in our black box space, you can do small things and the audience can still see them. Whereas, if I just do a small facial gesture on Clowes’ stage, the people in the back row can’t see that. So, I have to be very expressive with my entire body.”
Karina Milvain, another senior theatre major, thought in addition to challenging students to move bigger in their performing, it will also be cool to perform in a space that was shared by so many legends.
“It’ll be so mind blowingly cool to be in the same green room that people like Richard Harris and Elton John… have been in,” she said. “I’m pretty excited for that.”
Another unique aspect of this performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is that students were directed by someone they’ve seen perform countless times.
Constance Macy, an actress with the Indianapolis Repertory Theatre, is the guest director for this performance. While it is many students’ first time working with her, they’ve all seen her perform. The Butler theatre department attends several Indianapolis Repertory Theatre performances each year.
Bird says that Macy’s directorial style is very physical, and her no-holds approach made it easier to understand what she wanted from students.
“There are some directors who just kind of sit there and give you direction, but she’s extremely physical,” he said. “She’ll get up out of her chair and, if she wants you to lie on the ground and shake, she will get down on the ground and roll around and shake and show you exactly what she’s thinking and what she wants.”
Bird also said that Macy’s unique and physical approach helped students abandon their reservations as well, allowing them to open up more in their acting.
“She’s doing all these ridiculous things but she doesn’t care,” he said. “So, the fact that she’s so willing to do all these ridiculous things I think kind of helps open us up. And so we’re ready to just jump in and do the ridiculous things, too.”
After approximately three weeks of rehearsal, students are gearing up to perform this classic show. With only one public show and an entire 2200-seat theater to fill, the students performing hope that community members will come out and see it.
Milvain also emphasized the comedic aspects of the show and how, even if audience members are not very familiar with Shakespeare, they will be able to understand and enjoy it easily.
“It’s going to be a really funny show,” she said. “It’s only an hour and a half, and it always feels good to enjoy the arts. Come on over and see some theatre.”
The public performance on Feb. 28 will begin at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available for sale at Clowes Hall box office or at butlerartscenter.org.