The University of South Carolina Department of Theatre and Dance will launch its 2022/23 performance season October 2-9 with a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented outdoors on the brand-new Shakespeare Festival Stage.
Show times are 3 p.m. October 2, 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. October 8, and 3 p.m. October 9. Admission is $15 for students, $20 for UofSC faculty/staff, military, and seniors 60+, and $22 for the public. Tickets may be purchased online at sc.universitytickets.com. The Shakespeare Festival Stage is located across from the Russell House at 1492 Greene St., between Woodrow College and the Melton Observatory.
The Shakespeare Festival Stage makes it campus debut with this production, having made its national premiere in July 2022 as the centerpiece of the Folger Theatre’s production of Midsummer at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Designed in partnership between the University, the Folger and the NBM by UofSC theatre professor and department chair Jim Hunter, the striking two-story structure is inspired by elements and functions of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre such as a thrust stage, balcony playing space, and entrances on both the upper and lower levels. The stage is fully portable and is intended to become a home for outdoor performances on-campus and around the state for years to come.
“The Festival Stage is a big part of a greater initiative our department has to fundamentally expand our horizons,” says Hunter. “We want to be able to go beyond our buildings and our campus and out into communities around the state. We’re hoping that when we bring the stage to a location, it won’t be just our theatre program performing, but the dance program, ensembles from the music school, or local arts groups from the communities we’re visiting.”
Guest artist Devin Haqq, who served as Associate Director for the D.C. production, will direct UofSC‘s iteration of Midsummer using a script adapted by Victor Malana Maog for The Folger. Condensed to an easy-to-follow 90-minute run time, the play is a fun and frivolous trip full of magic, mix-ups, and mayhem. When four young lovers and a group of roaming actors wander through an enchanted forest, they find themselves entangled by the mischievous whims of a band of powerful fairies with a wicked sense of humor. As they struggle to make sense of the fairies’ otherworldly influence, we are reminded just “what fools these mortals be!”
Haqq is an Emmy nominated producer, director, and veteran film and stage actor, who is currently a member of NYC’s Fiasco Theatre Company. He says Fiasco’s actor-focused approach to the theatrical process is at the core of this production.
“Our philosophy and our way of rehearsing is about finding the joy, and connecting to the passion of, acting. I don’t believe actors have to suffer to create great art. I think you learn technique and then connect to who you are as a person…and that will translate into great work.”
Those themes of joy and connection mesh perfectly with Shakespeare’s story, which Haqq says at its heart is about nurturing love and finding commonality with others.
“[The play] is about two things. One is the idea of cherishing the love you have – if you have love in your life, don’t take it for granted. The other is about…how theatre can bring us together and how it can help us heal as a society. Those are my takeaways and the reasons why I think this play is important.”
The open-air environment of the festival stage itself can engender that same joyful connection for the audience, according to Haqq. “Seeing theatre outside is fun and a great communal experience that sort of deformalizes theatre and makes it accessible to everyone,” he says.
“I have seen many, many outdoor productions,” says Hunter, whose extensive career includes five years as Associate Artistic Director at the Jenny Wiley Theatre, a long-running outdoor theatre in Kentucky. “And I will tell you that when you experience a good show in the great outdoors, there’s a magic that is beyond the effectiveness of any Broadway show I’ve ever seen.”
A diverse group of undergraduate students, some cast against traditional gender roles, will bring the enchanting tale to life. Cast in the production are David Alexander, Zoe Chan, Sarah Craft, Reese Elwood, Myracle Lawrence, Rowland Marshall, Kyleigh McComish, Kenna Nelson, Rayne Norris, Phillip Parker, Nicole Perez, Thomas Summers, Parker Walsh, and Michael Williamson. The production utilizes The Folger Theatre’s original costume design by Olivera Gajic and sound design by Brandon Wolcott.
“One thing that is very important,” says Haqq, “is that our cast is very diverse, and that’s something I’m very proud of. If we’re going to tell stories that are supposed to hold a mirror up to society, then those stories need to look like our society.”
“This is a play about the power of love…and the power of theatre to bring us all together.”
For more information of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the theatre program at the University of South Carolina, contact Kevin Bush by phone at 803-777-9353 or by email at email@example.com.