Midsummer’s Contrasting Characters

Midsummer can’t just be popular because it’s easy to read, or the clear story, or the comedy, or the magic… can it? Directing the show is presenting me with some interesting challenges, but unlike those I’d associate with other plays by Shakespeare. The storytelling is so wonderfully clear. The three distinct plots are entertaining and are woven together in such clever ways. But I think what I really find fascinating are the individual characters. An earlier conversation about the crazy bunch of character sparked the question, “Did Shakespeare intend to create characters that parallel the various parts of the human psyche?”

Who knows? I’m directing the show so I should probably have an answer to that. I don’t know what Shakespeare intended, but I know how the show affects me. The more I think about it, the more I feel that the different characters are the real charm of this play. Shakespeare writes these characters in very distinctly different ways. We have the heavily structured, ordered world of the court: Egeus pushing his clearly defined agenda with a dimplomatic Theseus upholding the law. The lovers, with many similarities, each can display a different form of love – or lust. The fairies demonstrate their very un-human nature in very lyrical, metaphoric language; the conflict between the powers that upsets nature (they affect nature as nature affects humans). And the mechanicals – each carrying their own trademark, shall we say, “challenge.”

I find it difficult to communicate here the real breadth and scope of the types of people that Shakespeare has written in this show. It begins with the language, but continues and develops with the characters physicality and personality. The challenge of a creating a really strong Midsummer is the very strong ensemble it requires. It’s not a show that less talented actors can be given a small part and not be noticed. My vision for my production is that every single character within the story is a very unique person different than the others around him or her but they all work together as a tight-knit ensemble. And each ensemble in each of the shows subplots can work with each other as a part of a larger ensemble.

With a cast of 14 and most actors doubling as another role I hope to achieve this kind of different ensemble. A chorus that does not talk and sing and dance and look the same but are all different and yet work together seamlessly. I’ve seen productions where the characters sort of blend together and others where some are very defined. Especially with the mechanicals, whose comedy depends on it. Too often the fairies and the court are rather bland.

It’s an interesting challenge for acting or directing. I think it’s what makes this show so much fun for those both onstage and off. Thanks Mr. Shakespeare!