A Midsummer Night's Dream: performance conventions

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: performance conventions

Understanding Elizabethan Performance Conventions

  • Explore Elizabethan staging. Understand that in Shakespeare’s time, plays were performed in daylight, on a thrust stage, with minimal use of sets or props. Consider how you might recreate this style of performance or adapt it for a modern audience.
  • Incoperate dance and music. During the Elizabethan era, music and dance were integral parts of theatrical performances. They can be used to enhance the mood, indicate a change of scene, or create a spectacle, like in the final wedding celebration scene.

Storytelling and Character Development

  • Utilize soliloquies and asides. These devices, often used by Shakespeare, allow a character to share their inner thoughts with the audience. They are essential to the plot development and understanding of characters’ motives.
  • Make distinctive character choices. The play features a variety of characters, from the fairy king and queen to the lovers to the “mechanicals.” Each group should be distinctly differentiated through voice, physicality, and costume.
  • Keep in mind the use of verse and prose. The change from one to the other often signals a change in status or emotional state. Verse is often used by higher status characters or in serious romantic moments, while prose is usually used for lower status characters or for comedy.

Utilizing Comedy and Supernatural Elements

  • Consider the use of comedy and physical humour. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, and many scenes rely on physical humour, slapstick and farcical situations. For example, the interaction between Bottom and Titania, or the confusion and disagreements among the lovers.
  • Bear in mind the use of supernatural elements. The play involves the realm of the fairy kingdom, and this could be creatively presented using lighting, sound, costume or physical theatre techniques. Think about how to make these scenes otherworldly and magical.

Symbolism and Themes

  • Use symbolic props and costumes. In the absence of elaborate sets, these plays often relied on props and costumes to signify key information - for instance, using a donkey head to represent Bottom’s transformation.
  • Focus on the theme of dreams and illusion vs. reality. The events unfolding during the night (dream) and day (reality) should be clearly contrasted in your performance.

Gender Roles and Experimentation

  • Experiment with gender roles. Many female roles in Shakespeare’s time were played by men. Consider how you might incorporate this convention into your performance.