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A more physical ‘Midsummer Night’

Sock and Buskin challenges typical whiteness in reimagined Shakespeare staple

From March 3 to 13, Sock and Buskin will present Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Stuart Theatre. The immersive production features steampunk costuming and on-stage audience seating, where the audience quickly becomes part of the set.

Sock and Buskin chose to perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” after it was pitched to the group by Marcus Gardley, assistant professor of theatre arts and performance studies, said Nika Salazar ’16. She is the chair of the Sock and Buskin board and plays the character Peaseblossom in the production. The group held several rounds of interviews to find a director, ultimately choosing Kira Hawkridge, artistic director of OUT LOUD Theatre in Providence.

“I think Kira’s really amazing. She’s totally different from anyone I’ve ever worked with at Brown,” Salazar said, adding that Hawkridge “works from the outside in” and has performers perfect the movement of scenes before incorporating dialogue in rehearsals. “As someone who’s not only a performer but also a director, it’s been a really invaluable experience to work with her,” Salazar said.

Salazar noted that as director, Hawkridge emphasizes physicality, an artistic perspective carried over from her work at OUT LOUD Theatre.

“All of my works stem from this idea of bringing what’s happening internally to the surface and finding a way to create a physical language that is easier for people to share with the audience,” Hawkridge said. “All of our performances contain this physical mentality and the body creating relationships from that mentality — the bodies’ space, how they interact with each other, how they interact with the audience and the audience interacts with them.”

“The setup is really about creating spaces with bodies,” Salazar said, adding that the set is purposefully minimalist.

Hawridge added that she and set designer Sara Ossana placed the audience on stage to “create this environmental energy in which the proximity of the physicality is also in play.”

Jaclyn Licht ’16, who plays Hermia in the show, said that the show’s production is grounded in “building an ensemble, a strong community of actors and a strong connection between all the characters themselves.”

Conor Sweeney ’18, who plays the character Demetrius, noted the production’s emphasis on diversity as well as physicality. Sweeney chose to audition after an information session with Hawkridge. “I was inspired by the idea of a diverse group of bodies and identities coming together, telling this old story and making it more relevant to today,” he said. “I wanted to be part of that story in any way I could.”

Sweeney noted that the production’s casting is a unique aspect of the show. “Kira worked really hard to debunk gender roles, especially in the fairies,” he said. “The script is very much gendered male for them, and Kira cast female-identified and gender-nonconforming people in these roles.”

Sweeney added that several cast members are people of color, challenging the presumed whiteness of these characters and the characters in all of Shakespeare’s works.

“‘Midsummer’ has been done a thousand times, so there’s this question of why we’re still doing it,” he said. “I feel like we’re celebrating a diverse body of identities to demonstrate how this is a work that can still be relevant in today’s society.”

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