When I was in college, I spent a semester studying in London which was a dream come true for this avowed anglophile. When we visited Stratford-on-Avon and I saw my first professional performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (performed on a tilted forward stage and in complete 1950s costume—a new Shakespearophile was born. (No, really. It’s a word. I looked it up.)
Skip-jump back over the pond, back to school where I stage managed a super fun production of Twelfth Night and attended as many local Shakespeare in the Park productions as my mosquito-bitten skin could stand. Quite a few nights’ entertainment consisted of what I shall call “Bad Shakespeare” reenacting our favorite scenes in our dorm stairwells (costumes optional). We were often inspired by our Shakespeare professor/nun who wrote some official tome on his life so we were well-versed on the subject, but we loved to interpret his plays irreverently, either by changing up the characters while keeping his beautiful language intact, trying to memorize their soliloquies or by making up some of our own iconic Shakespearean insults (but really, how do outdo “beetle-headed flap-ear’d knave”). Either way, Shakespeare was a favorite and familiar mainstay for me back in the day.
Later, I could not see Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 film Much Ado About Nothing enough times it seemed. The opening sequence alone was worth more than the price of admission! I even loved Shakespeare’s heavy historical dramas, although truth be told, playing Richard III for laughs (as in The Goodbye Girl) probably was the most enjoyable!
Anyway, when deciding which of his plays I would review here (and which version—book, audio theater performance or movie—), I finally chose the filmed scenes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream where the woodland fairies Oberon and Puck cook up all kinds of mischief, especially since Midsummer Night falls on June 24. There are so many versions of this play, it was hard to select the sole one to base my comments on, but without MUCH ADO, here is my review of the film A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999; directed by Michael Hoffman).
If any part of my review has grabbed your attention, if there’s anything about Shakespeare and what he wrote that has made you stop and wonder (or reminisce like me), then don’t leave it at that! You can stream one of the Shakespeare movies—just check out our many digital resources. Perhaps you could see one of his plays at a local theater (once they reopen). Check our catalog for a book that tells the story of the play that might help you to understand it better before you go. Then you’ll see that Shakespeare really wrote scripts—scenes and beautiful speeches for people to say out loud and act out—on stage or even with puppets. 🙂
- Check out Patrick Stewart reading Shakespeare sonnets, during this shelter at home period.
- Tune in to National Theater’s YouTube channel on June 25 to see a free virtual screening of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999 version taped at the Bridge Theater)!
*Written by and posted on behalf of Laura Didier, Outreach Services Program Specialist.