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Shakespeare in the 20th century South

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Shakespeare in the 20th century South

Noah Tiegs (‘20) and Annie Thoma’s (‘22) characters show affection during Luther’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Noah Tiegs (‘20) and Annie Thoma’s (‘22) characters show affection during Luther’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Noah Tiegs (‘20) and Annie Thoma’s (‘22) characters show affection during Luther’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips

Noah Tiegs (‘20) and Annie Thoma’s (‘22) characters show affection during Luther’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Grace Onsrud, Staff Writer

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A bluegrass-infused version of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is showing in Jewel Theater in the Center for the Arts from Friday, Nov. 9 until Saturday, Nov. 17. This production, which is set in a swampy area in the 1930s American South, puts a unique spin on Shakespeare’s text with vibrant costumes and a live band on stage behind the actors.

The show tells three separate stories: the spat between the Fairy King and Queen, which brings elements of magic into the show; the mixed-up affections of the four lovers; and the organization of a play by blue-collar workers to impress royalty. Each storyline affects the other plots and causes the stories to become intertwined in a comical way.

The set includes a large tilted platform painted to look like a moon and swaths of green netting meant to evoke the vines of a bayou setting. The costumes include vintage dresses for the “Athenian” lovers, lots of flannel and overalls, and colorful moth wings and teased hair for Puck, the mischievous fairy, as well as the other fairies.

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips
Morgan Fanning (‘20) and Nathan Sunde (‘21) work together to create the play within the play.

Morgan Fanning (‘20), who plays Bottom, said they selected this setting because it is a clever way to make this popular play new and fun.

“It’s always fun to experiment with Shakespeare [and] with different time periods that you can set the show in,” Fanning said. “It’s pretty common to do that. I think they just did the 1930s because of the folk music. It fits well with that and the costumes can be kind of fun.”

Colin Cosgrove (‘20) and their band provided the folk music. The directors of the show reached out to Cosgrove last spring asking if they could write original compositions for the show that would embellish the storyline. Cosgrove’s chosen genre, bluegrass, influenced the decision to set the show in the 1930s South.

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips
Mina Sahir (‘22) and Annie Thoma (‘22) get caught in a love triangle plus one.

“They just wanted me to compose in the genre that I usually play in,” Cosgrove said. “I had an absolutely terrifying amount of artistic liberty with this project.”

Cosgrove used original lyrics as well as lyrics from Shakespeare’s script. Many of Cosgrove’s songs have themes dealing with gender and sexuality, which fit well with the play for several reasons, including that women portrayed some characters that are traditionally portrayed by men. The cast sang some of the songs and in some cases interacted with the band as a part of the show.

“It’s been really fun working [with] the musicians,” Fanning said. “I think [Cosgrove’s] music adds to the quality of our performance. I think it is going to be a lot more entertaining with the fact that the band is behind us the entire time.”

Grace Onsrud (‘20) | Chips
Matthew Espey (‘19) and Noah Tiegs (‘20) argue in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The show received laughs from the audience on opening night, especially during the last scene. The play ends with a puppet show, with Fanning wearing one of the puppets. This scene functions as a play within the play.

Fanning enjoyed how the play tells three very different storylines, but manages to tie them all together in the end.

“It’s challenging working with such a big cast and finding unity between all the different storylines that are happening in the play, but at the end of the show all of the pieces kind of fit together,” Fanning said. “I think it’s been rewarding for the cast to kind of get to know each other throughout this process.”

Audience member Kita Daly (‘19) enjoyed all of the eye-catching visual aspects of the play.

“I think [everything] was really well done, the costuming, the staging, the lights, and the acting,” Daly said. “I’ve never seen the show before, so I thought it was really great.”

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