Ursinus Celebrates Shakespeare with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Ursinus College joins the worldwide Shakespeare 400 celebration with its own special production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Oct. 6-9. 

Directed by Domenick Scudera, a professor of theater, performances are Oct. 6-8 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Lenfest Theater in the Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center. 

This year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death in 1616 and even now, his words and characters continue to have a resounding impact on people and cultures all over the globe.

“I have wanted to direct Midsummer again for quite some time,” says Scudera, who notes that he last directed the play nearly 30 years ago. “I was excited to know that the students were interested in performing a Shakespearean comedy this semester.  And — quite perfectly — it is the Shakespeare 400 celebration year.  I think this play stands out because it is hilarious, magical and playful. It is filled with physical comedy and I felt that the students would have a ball working on it — and audiences will, hopefully, love watching it.”

Scudera says that students often equate Shakespeare with boredom and stuffiness but, in performance, Shakespeare can be wildly entertaining. 

Annie Rudman ’17, a theater major playing the part of Queen Titania in the Ursinus production, agrees with her professor. She says she thinks Shakespeare resonates with so many audiences because it is funny.

“Some people may intimidated by his work because it was written a long time ago, but Shakespeare wasn’t writing for the nobility; he was writing for the common people, and in order to draw in a crowd, his plays had to be entertaining enough to pull in large audiences,” Rudman says. “One of my favorite things about acting in a Shakespeare play is the plot. Especially in his comedies, Shakespeare’s work is very fun to perform. You can get really physical with the work, and its laugh-out-loud type of humor.”

Scudera says he wants his students to realize how raucous and silly Shakespeare’s comedies are.

“He knew exactly how to write engaging, hilarious comedies that would keep audiences laughing and coming back for more,” he says.

They’ve been coming back for centuries. So, why have the Bard’s works stood the test of time? Scudera says that in his classes, he often uses, as a frame of reference, Aristotle’s list of six elements that comprise theater: plot, character, theme, diction, music, and spectacle. 

“Most successful playwrights master one or two of these elements and they are associated with that particular element,” Scudera says. “Shakespeare is a master of all six elements. In my mind, this is what makes his work survive century after century.  Also, since Shakespeare was forbidden from writing anything overtly political or religious, his works focus on the human condition – and that universal human focus resonates in all times and cultures.” –by Ed Moorhouse