The Korea Herald


Gwangju players to stage Shakespeare

By Korea Herald

Published : Nov. 18, 2015 - 18:44

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Mixing fantasy with funny, Gwangju Performance Project is putting on its biggest ever production starting this weekend, with an abridged performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Shakespeare’s tale of the Athenian aristocracy getting stuck in a forest and becoming the playthings of fairy royalty is one of his most popular comedies, and the directors say they let the cast loose in exploring its humor.

“We’ve given them free rein. They’ve run wild with it in rehearsals with them. The play is wildly funny now,” said David St. John, the play’s assistant director.

The show has been enhanced by being an abridged production, made in consideration of theatergoers watching in their second language, he said.

“It’s given the whole thing a really great pace. There’s never a moment when there is not something happening,” he said.

But it isn’t all laughs. Director Caitlin O’Neill said one of the things that most appeals to her in the play is its strong female characters, such as Titania, the fairy queen.

“She stands up to Oberon and she doesn’t give in to what he wants willingly, so it’s interesting how she approaches him and disrespects him in front of all their fairies,” she said.

Hermia and Lysander from Gwangju Performance Project`s production of Hermia and Lysander from Gwangju Performance Project`s production of "A Midsummer Night`s Dream" (Ben Robins)

And O’Neill said she insisted on retaining a larger part for another strong female role, Hippolyta.

“The first version (that script editor Anna Volle) sent me had cut more of Hippolyta’s lines. I asked her to put more of them back in because I find that character fascinating,” she said.

“She doesn’t come from a patriarchal society, and her whole perspective of everything that is happening around her is different. … She doesn’t show (Theseus) respect as a man as the other women do,” she said. “She speaks to him as an equal, and even taunts him sometimes. And I love to see that.”

The physical side of the play is something that she has also had fun exploring.

The Mechanicals from Gwangju Performance Project’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Ben Robins The Mechanicals from Gwangju Performance Project’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Ben Robins

“The Mechanicals are really boisterous so I’ve been working with them on really letting go physically, stumbling around and being loud,” said O’Neill, explaining that she had sought to draw a contrast between the play’s shambolic drama troupe and its graceful, almost silent fairies.

The distinctions are also expressed in the visual style of the play, which is Ottoman, based on the Turkish empire that occupied Athens in the time of Shakespeare.

While the sets are fairly minimal, the costumes are not, O’Neill said, and there is a difference drawn between the two groups of fairies.

“Oberon’s fairies are more chaotic and dark, whereas Titania’s fairies are harmonized and a little bit ‘softer,’” said O’Neill.

The Ottoman feel also spreads into the sound, with St. John including music based on recordings of compositions by Dimitrie Cantemir.

Cantemir lived after Shakespeare, but transcribed traditional songs that would have been the same or similar to those of the bard’s time.

“The music definitely adds to the flavor of the production when matched with the costumes and everything else,” he said.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be staged on Saturday at Chosun University’s Seosuk Hall at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. and again at the same times the following weekend. Tickets are 8,000 won in advance and 10,000 won at the door, with discounts for children, students and group bookings.

Visit for bookings and information.

By Paul Kerry (