What: A Midsummer Night’s Dream preview
When: Wednesday, Aug. 2 — Thursday, Aug. 3
Where: Ross Rebagliati Park
Until now, the William Shakespeare experience in Whistler consisted of high school students groaning their way through iambic pentameter – a more "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" coupling than a love "is an ever-fixed mark" one.
Alas, as The Bard’s most famous saying goes, "The course of true love never did run smooth." However, the Whistler Theatre Project’s summerstock production A Midsummer Night’s Dream promises audiences a love affair they will never forget – whether it be with the romantic comedy or just the theatre-going experience itself.
Shakespeare’s greatest comedy comes to light with two sneak preview performances, Wednesday, Aug. 2 and Thursday, Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. under the big tent at Ross Rebagliati Park.
There is nothing conventional about the Whistler production. The 17th-century play is set in a dormitory; pajama costumes build on the dream theme; and production officials have pulled back the curtain on traditional theatre spaces, setting the show amidst Whistler’s great outdoors.
"I think there is growing excitement right now in theatre amongst young people," says director Bill Dow. "Theatre is finding different ways to become relevant to a younger audience."
Reduced-price preview night tickets and pay-what-you-can Tuesdays will also help persuade theatre novices to try something new.
But what Dow hopes most is for audiences to lose themselves in the comedic yet heartfelt story about love and the human condition, as well as discover the incredible language of one of the world’s greatest playwrights.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is performed more than any other Shakespeare play because of the comedy.
The play could almost be described as a 17th-Century Three’s Company, with people falling in love in all the wrong places, mistaken identities and lust and more lust bringing chaos to it all.
The bare bones of the romantic comedy can be reduced to three interlocking plots.
The lovers: Hermia refuses to marry her parent’s choice of Demetrius and flees from the city to elope with her love, Lysander. Demetrius follows Hermia in hopes of wooing her while Hermia’s best friend Helena also follows into the forest in hot pursuit of Demetrius.
The faeries: King Oberon and Titania quarrel over a changeling boy Titania refuses to give up. Oberon recruits the fairy Puck to sprinkle Titania with a love potion that makes the victim fall in love with the first thing/person they see. Titania first sees an ass. Puck also infects the lovers with the potion, turning all of their loves/lusts around.
The wedding: The Duke of Athens and the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta are getting married and a crew of lower-class workers is rehearsing a crude play to perform at the wedding. One of the actors is turned into an ass.
So what does a play scribbled almost 400 years ago have to do with the state of the world today?
"Often the biggest hazard people take with the play is that they take it too lightly," Dow says. "It’s a play that tries to look very seriously at the male-female relationship, particularly fidelity and truth of love… Shakespeare has amazing insight into human relations and wants us to see how we struggle. He wants us to look at it and recognize ourselves: ‘I remember the time when I was that jealous, or that foolishly in love.’ If you don’t watch your desires, you might have sex with a donkey."
A sentiment many Whistlerites can relate to.
The story is set in the city of Athens and a forest, juxtaposing two worlds not unfamiliar to the Whistler-Vancouver phenomenon: the contained and controlled concrete reality of the city versus the freedom and wilderness of lucid nature.
"When we talk about going into the woods, you bring in the Freudian sense of dream analysis," Dow says. "This woods are about going into the subconscious, where unconscious thoughts, urges and impulses are. There is a sense of sexuality, danger and freedom that lives there."
Whistler’s first professional summerstock theatre company invites the community to explore this forest within the forest, stepping into the universal truths of the legendary playwright as well as the magic live theatre affords.
Preview tickets are $25. Show starts at 8 p.m.
The official run is Aug. 4 to Sept. 3, Tuesdays through Sundays with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Adult tickets are $35, students/seniors $25 and family-of-four packages $90. Call 604-935-8140 for tickets.