Asolo Rep Produces a ‘Midsummer Night’s’ Stream

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY NOV 20, 2020

Over the summer, Michael Donald Edwards, Asolo’s producing artistic director, felt it was time for arts organizations to start producing new work for the new reality. Last week, as part of the theatre’s BardWired student outreach initiative, Asolo did just that. An offshoot of the theatre’s On Tour program, BardWired takes the work of Shakespeare and adapts it to contemporary audiences, with an emphasis on student-aged thespians who might otherwise find the work outdated and irrelevant. And for the new reality, Asolo produced a 45-minute film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that utilizes all of the trappings of social distancing and cultural shifts to bring Shakespeare frolicking into 2020.

“If we can’t do something live and together, why not turn it into a film project?” says associate artistic director Celine Rosenthal, who masterminded the production. Easier said than done, the socially distanced film production required ingenuity to execute, and to do so, Rosenthal’s team devised a tech package to send each actor. Microphones, iPhones and a simple lighting kit ensured each scene would yield serviceable and consistent footage as each actor took charge of their own camera work. “Then they’d sign into Zoom with their personal device and I would direct them remotely while they were on location,” says Rosenthal, while the Streamyard platform was used to help properly set up the shots. Finally, Rosenthal stitched the shots together into one cohesive product, with techniques both simple and genius utilized to “create the illusion of people being in the same space,” she says.

Though the format may have been unorthodox and a tad experimental, the final cut felt accessible and clear. That clarity helped the adaptation explore other themes relevant to 2020. “The new generation has a much more sophisticated idea of gender than we do,” says Rosenthal, “and it was great to reflect that in a positive way.” The role of Titania was reprised by Alex Benito Rodriguez and saw him dressed in colorful fabrics, with bright and glittery makeup on his bearded face. Oberon, meanwhile, was played by Bonita Jackson. The characters represented a contemporary reimagining of traditional gender roles, though the concept is not entirely new. “Puck is never assigned a gender in the original text,” says Rosenthal, and she adds that female roles were reprised by males in Shakespeare’s day too.

Between its engagement with social distancing and its exploration of gender fluidity, the adaptation promises to model the kind of ingenuity and inclusivity the current generation of school-aged kids have been called to adopt. “Whenever I approach Shakespeare, I ask myself, ‘why do this today?’” says Rosenthal. “[The film] absolutely affirms that we have to start making new media for the new reality.”

The stream of Asolo’s ‘Midsummer’ film and its accompanying educational materials are available for purchase through March 13, 2021, in a variety of pricing indexed for individuals, groups, and area schools.

Photo courtesy of Asolo.

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