The Independent Shakespeare Company wrapped up its fourth summer of “Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park” on Sept. 2 with its final performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The dynamic characters originally found in William Shakespeare’s play were well represented by the experienced actors of the ISC.
Barnsdall Art Park, located in Hollywood, housed the performances of three legendary plays this summer-“Macbeth,” “Richard III” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”-which opened on July 5 on a little stage, with minimal props and backdrops, and close-knit audience seating.
Under the lighting of the moon and stars, along with some stage lights, families and friends gathered on blankets and brought out their picnic baskets. Everything from fine wine to leftover pizza made an appearance in the family-friendly setting.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” takes place in Athens, as well as an enchanted forest hidden near by. This concept fit well with the outdoor theatre, as the night sky darkened and the moon shone over the surrounding trees, audiences started to believe they were actually in a forest.
At the opening of the play we are introduced to Hermia (Maude Bonanni) who is madly in love with Lysander (Erik Mathew), but her father, Egeus (Bobby Plasencia), has given his consent for her to marry only Demetrius (Ahmad Enani). Later, we are also introduced to Helena (Aisha Kabia) who is the best friend of Hermia and in love with Demetrius, who inturn only has an eye for Hermia. And so the love triangle begins.
Although both the women portrayed their designated characters quite well, it is without a doubt that Bonanni stole the stage. Her characterization of Hermia sometimes bordered on obnoxiously loud, but her small bodied and loud voiced self won over the audience, along with the male characters’ hearts. While her counterpart, Kabia, portrayed Helena as the hopelessly in love woman that is willing to do anything if it means catching the eye of her love Demetrius. Kabia’s performance, although also well done, takes a backstage to Bonanni’s presense.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a play within a play and so as the lovers quarrel about their differences and devise plans of fleeing the city in hopes of getting married in secret, a group of craftsmen turned actors decide they would like to create a play of their own in honor of the Duke of Athens’ (Freddy Douglas) marriage to the queen of the Amazons (Melissa Chalsma). Their midnight rehersal in the forest leads to a chance meeting with Puck (Sean Pritchett), the fairy, who transforms Nick Bottom (Danny Campbell), the weaver, into a man with a donkey’s head.
Chalsma who played the role of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, and also Titania, the queen of the fairies, currently teaches in CSUNs theatre department.
The part of one of the craftsmen, Tom Snout, was also played by a CSUN student, Amy Urbina, a senior theatre major. Urbina also played the part of Cobweb, a fairy.
Outside of the acting, the ambiance also attributed to the well doing of the performance. The stage looked like something one might build in their backyard. Fully equipped with curtains hanging on rope to distinguish what was considered to be backstage, and three purple planks setup as a backdrop for the stage. The only stable props on stage were two metal ladders, which represented thrones, trees, pillars and whatever else the scene called for.
Even in its simplicity, the setting almost added to the calming aura one felt once within the performance area. Even something like the noise of a helicopter flying up above, which could have easily disturbed audiences and confused actors, was cleverly intermixed within the plot.
In one scene, Oberon, the king of the fairies, who was also played by Douglas, recites his monologue concerning his love, Titania. As he devises a plan to make Titania fall in love with an “evil creature” a helicopter flies up above, Douglas, takes a moment to adlib Cupid’s presence, as he motions to the sky and claims Cupid’s got indigestion.
The players finished another year of free theatre and hope to return for their fifth consecutive year in Barnsdall next summer. The company feels strongly about providing theatre for everyone and not only those who can afford a $50 ticket, and so they bring their passion for audiences of all economic standings.
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