SBCC theater revives “Midsummer Night’s Dream” in ’60s setting

Emerson Malone, Arts Editor

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the newest production in the Jurkowitz Theatre, imbues a 400-year-old story with a pseudo-modernization.

Michael Gros, co-chair of the theater arts department and the director of “Midsummer,” has transplanted the story of two young lovers fleeing Athens in a magical forest into a 1960s setting while retaining all the original Shakespearean dialogue.

“This is a fun opportunity for me to revisit a play I’m really fond of,” Gros said. “This is the right play to reintroduce Shakespeare to our students and community.”

The 1960s setting is apparent throughout the play; the costumes are designed to reflect the era. Some characters are clothed with attire resembling that of John and Jacqueline Kennedy.

Rock-pop songs from the era influenced by classical music were sought out for the music. Songs by The Rolling Stones, Otis Redding, Jethro Tull and other artists from that era permeate the play like sage incense in a den.

“There’s a 1970s music extravaganza throughout the play,” said Ben Crop, the play’s technical director.

Gros knew since he was hired two-and-a-half years ago that he wanted to revive Shakespeare in the City College theater scene. He has acted, produced, directed and studied The Bard throughout his theatrical career.

“Midsummer” is the first City College Shakespeare production in over 20 years. “As You Like It,” the most recent City College Shakespeare play, was performed in the Jurkowitz Theatre in 1991.

“It’s been a while,” he said. “Shakespeare is a very important theatrical touchstone for me. There was a very strong student interest as well, so it seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

The play ruminates on themes such as the foolish things humans do in pursuit of love and the oppressive parental authority that can threaten it.

“I think Shakespeare is a pretty remarkable storyteller and he knows that he’s going to take you on a journey so you have to make everything really important,” Gros said. “To have that big satisfactory ending, then you have to put some things in risk in the play.”

To add more life to the magical forest in the play, Gros added supplementary fairy roles to the cast.

“Fairies are present throughout the entire production,” he said. “As we’re children, we can see fairies and special creatures who are quite real to us, and adults can never see them. It makes perfect sense to me that adults are in a world where fairies [still] surround them, but because they’ve grown up, they can never see them. In my production, the fairy world both observes and interacts with the real world.”

Gros admitted that it’s absolutely impossible for him to choose a favorite character or performance in the play.

“That’s like asking which child you love the most,” he said. “Each of them bring some necessary component to the production. There’s no one character who I would prefer to another.”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be previewed in the Jurkowitz Theatre Nov. 14 and 15 and will carry out until Nov. 18. It begins again the week after Thanksgiving on Wednesday, Nov. 28 until Saturday, Dec. 1.

Prices vary from $16 for general admission, $13 for seniors and $8 for students. Seating will be limited.

Gros said that students can still volunteer to be an usher for the play, which will allow them to attend for free.