Action Frame by Frame

There are some theatrical productions that make me pause.  They provide production stills on film that make me say, "this is why I do what I do."  Theatre for a New Audience's (TFANA) production of Midsummer Night's Dream is one of those productions.  I'm sure we've all been exposed to Shakespeare's story regarding the plight of mortals when love becomes the plaything of a meddling sprite, and I'm sure you're wondering what makes this production more powerful to me.  I think it is a combination of two things: (1) TFANA's mission and (2) Miss Julie Taymor.

Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) has been providing exceptional productions to a worldwide audiences for over thirty years.  They have received nominations and awards, that geeky theatre people will appreciate, including the Drama Desk, OBIE, and Tony.  They were also the first American theatre company invited to perform Shakespeare at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2001.  But it isn’t their trophy case and accolades that have me excited about their work, it’s this:

“We are guided in our work by five core values: a reverence for language, a spirit of adventure, a commitment to diversity, a dedication to learning, and a spirit of service. These values inform what we do with artists, how we interact with audiences, and how we manage our organization.”    -TFANA Values and Strategies 

Many theatres, and live action art forms in general, are relying upon the production value rather than the quality of the language.  Shakespeare, for example, really isn’t difficult to understand when performed live if the actors focus upon the language and what they are saying to each other. Life, like acting, is about action and reaction to both physical and verbal stimulus. TFANA focuses upon the power of language, but they do not let this focus remove them from challenging technical elements; development as a theatre and individual artists; or new works. 

So, how does TFANA's mission effect the quality of the performance? Simple, by providing the correct artistic working conditions and partnering with like-minded artists, anything is possible (regardless of mission statement).  This is where Miss Taymor makes her entrance from stage left:
Now you're thinking, I know I know this lady.  I know I'm suppose to know the name...well, you know her from one of two places: as the Tony award winning director and costumer for The Lion King or as the director of the play that shall not be named:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was Taymor’s chance to reestablish herself as the queen of the stage as this was her first public project since she “left” the play that shall not be named.  When talking to The New York Times, Julie Taymor said that she made two artistic choices early on with this production: she wanted children to populate the fairy world, and that all faries would stay earth-bound.  “I had no interest in flying,” she said.  After the play that shall not be named, who can blame her for avoiding flying! 

Taymor was excited about the idea of working with Shakespeare because “People aren’t going to come in and say, ‘The script needs work.’” Stating the obvious, “The script works.”  What is perplexing to people is that she is not only a director but she also  has an eye for her vision that is more meticulous than most directors.  She can see details, like a little girl waving the flag the wrong way in the chorus, that both perplex her collaborators and make it all the more worthwhile for her audience.

An audience can see the passion behind the performance, from every collaborator.  From the detail of the props designer, to the effectiveness of the lighting, to the passion the actors have for the script - all is visible and understood by the audience. I love how Taymor plays with shadow, texture, and conflicting visuals to enhance her performances. This is a sample of the visual Julie Taymor created for her audience with A Midsummer Night's Dream:

(Top) Titania seducing Bottom. (Bottom) The player's play as the lovers talk through the crack in the wall. 
The Lovers after the meddling sprite intervenes.


(Left) Titania and (Right) Oberon

The fairies play

(Left) Puck and (Right) Oberon
Puck making an entrance

Miss Taymor said it best: 

“Everything is about who you work with. And do you know them, and do they want to do what you want to do?”

I hope that you continue to find passion in everything you do! Until next time, stay exceptionally chic and exquisitely geek! P.S. Want to read more about this production? Find it here!

-Seven of Nine-

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