At the Ballet

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Get ready for the magic, mischief and mind-boggling mayhem of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Artistic Director Stephen Mills reanimates Shakespeare's famously funny tale into an acclaimed masterpiece that's at once seductive and silly, romantic and rollicking.

Mendelssohn's enchanting overture sets the stage for this tale of young love gone awry thanks to the impish Puck and other mystical beings in a moonlit forest. Mills' hilarious, inventi ve production earned critical acclaim and seven sold-out houses while on tour at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Come see why!

Get Tickets

The Long Center
8pm | Sept 13Audio description by VSA Texas available for this show, 14
3pm | Sept 15

Run Time:
Act I- 55min
20 min Intermission
Act II- 33min

Choreography by Stephen Mills
Music by Felix Mendelssohn
Live Accompaniment by the Austin Symphony Orchestra


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Program Notes



Synopsis

In the woods of Athens, the mischievous sprite Puck and his friend Cupid are frolicking when King Oberon of the Fairies enters. His queen, Titania, soon follows onto the scene, holding the Changeling Child. She has been entrusted to care for the child, but Oberon intends to make the child his page. Titania refuses to allow it, and the two quarrel. Titania assures him that he will never possess the child, and she leaves in haste.
 
Hermia is in love with Lysander, but she has been betrothed to Demetrius. In order to escape the arrangement, Hermia and Lysander run into the woods. Meanwhile, Oberon, who is still angered by Titania’s refusal to release the child to his authority, is interrupted by two mortals, Helena and Demetrius. Helena (Hermia’s friend), who is infatuated with Demetrius, has run to Demetrius’ side and has told him of Hermia and Lysander’s secret escape. Demetrius and Helena are in the forest in search of the forbidden lovers. Oberon becomes aware of the young lovers’ troubles and decides to intervene. Oberon wants Demetrius to fall in love with Helena.
 
Oberon orders Puck to fetch a flower containing a love-inducing nectar. When dropped into the eyes, the nectar causes that person to fall in love at first sight. Puck confuses identities and drops the potion into Lysander’s eyes instead of Demetrius'. The error is compounded when Helena becomes the first to capture Lysander’s sight, and thus, his heart. Demetrius also falls under the influence of the spell and pursues Helena, as well. Hermia is confused, and a chase through the woods ensues.
 
In the Kingdom of the Fairy Queen, Oberon comes upon his sleeping Queen and drops the flower nectar into Titania’s eyes. He waits for the spell to take effect. Meanwhile, the mischievous Puck has come across a group of Mechanicals nearby. This extremely amateur acting troupe has come together to rehearse. Being the prankster that he is, Puck transforms one of the actors, Bottom, into a donkey. Next, Puck strategically situates Bottom next to Titania. Under the spell of the flower, Titania awakes, sees the donkey Bottom, and falls desperately in love.
 
Oberon relishes in the confusion but becomes enraged with Puck for mismatching the mortals. Seeing the Queen humiliated, Oberon regrets his actions and releases her from the spell. He restores order by appropriately pairing off the mortals.
 
Into the woods wander Duke Theseus of Athens and his fiancée, Hippolyta, with their courtiers. They come upon the couples and invite them to join in their wedding festivities. Hermia is happily united with Lysander, while Demetrius joins with Helena. Bottom is restored to his human form. and Titania reconciles with her King. The magical adventure, which began with Puck turning order into chaos followed by chaos into order, culminates with couples uniting in a joyous wedding celebration.



History

William Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the mid-1590s, some believe for an aristocratic wedding or perhaps for Queen Elizabeth I to celebrate the midsummer feast of St. John. The play was first performed publicly at The Theatre, a pre-Globe theatre that was responsible for promoting Shakespeare in his early career as an actor and playwright. There was a huge demand for new entertainment in the Elizabethan era and Midsummer would have been produced immediately following its completion.
 
Ballet versions of the play have been staged numerous times. The earliest seems to be A Midsummer Night's Dream performed at La Scala, Milan, in 1855 and choreographed by Giovani Corsati. The most well-known versions include George Balanchine's 1961 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his first full-length balletfor the New York City Ballet, and Sir Frederick Ashton'sThe Dream, a one-act ballet created for London's Royal Ballet in 1964.
 
Ballet Austin's production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was choreographed in 1999 by Artistic Director Stephen Mills and uses the music of Felix Mendelssohn. The ballet was one of Mills’ first full-length productions and was performed in 2002 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., to sevensold-out houses. It has since been performed in Austin again in 2003 and 2007.
 



Music

Felix Mendelssohn, a German composer and pianist of the early Romantic period, composed the Overture, Op. 21 for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1826 when only 17 years old. He composed it as a concert overture after reading the play, but not specifically for a production. Mendelssohn was barely 18 when he travelled 80 miles through a snowstorm to see its premiere in Poland. The Musical Times later called it “the greatest marvel of early maturity that the world has ever seen in music.” The Overture reflects the plot and themes of Midsummer and incorporates classical elements like regular phrasings and harmonic transitions. It is also marked by instrumental effects that emulate the sound of fairy feet and breezes through the trees.
 
By 1842, Mendelssohn was a famous composer and the music director of The King’s Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf. King Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia commissioned incidental music (Opus 61) for Midsummer after hearing Mendelssohn’s music to Sophocles’ Antigone. Mendelssohn incorporated the Overture into the first of fourteen pieces. Included in Mendelssohn’s music for Midsummer is the famous "Wedding March"in C Major, found in the Intermezzo in between Acts IV and V. (Excerpted from Wikipedia.org)



Costumes



Sets




Cast & Credits


Cast

Titania / Aara Krumpe
Oberon / Paul Michael Bloodgood
Hippolyta / Rebecca Johnson
Theseus / Orlando Julius Canova
Puck / Jordan Moser
Hermia / Ashley Lynn Gilfix
Helena / Jaime Lynn Witts
Lysander / Frank Shott
Demetrius / Christopher Swaim
Cupid / Anne Marie Melendez
Changeling Child / Nya Mitchell
Bottom / Edward Carr
Oberon Fairies / Grace Morton, Tanya Garcia, Nicole Voris, Cassia Wilson
Titania Fairies / Elise Pekarek, Oren Porterfield, Chelsea Marie Renner, Brittany Strickland
Mechanicals / Ian J. Bethany, Michael Burfield, James Fuller
Hunters / Michael Burfield, Preston Andrew Patterson, Kevin Murdock-Waters, Ashton Plummer
Attendants / Natasha Carl, Rosie Grady Sayvetz, Towa Shinagawa, Rayleigh Vendt
Wedding Women / Elise Pekarek, Oren Porterfield, Chelsea Marie Renner, Brittany Strickland
Wedding Men /  Ian J. Bethany, Michael Burfield, James Fuller, Preston Andrew Patterson
Bugs / Kaya Rose Epstein, Lily Grogono, Eileen Helwig, Cate Jesser, Erika Jones,  Mackensie Kim, Sofia Maass, Josephine Willman, Abriana Wilson, Reese Youngblood



Credits

Choreography by Stephen Mills
Music by Felix Mendelssohn
Live Accompaniment by the Austin Symphony Orchestra
Costumes and Sets courtesy of Ballet West



Artist Profiles

Stephen Mills has been called the “bard of ballet” by The Washington Post for his choreographies of Shakespeare’s plays. In his inaugural season as Artistic Director at Ballet Austin, he attracted attention from around the United States with his world-premiere production of Hamlet, hailed in Dance Magazine as “...sleek and sophisticated.” The Washington Post recognized Ballet Austin as “one of the nations’ best-kept secrets” in 2004 after Ballet Austin performed The Taming of the Shrew, which was commissioned by and performed at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. He led the Company to perform his A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2002 at the Kennedy Center, and his work has been showcased in New York at the choreographic showcase, Ballet Builders, and at the Joyce Theater. In 1998, he was the only American choreographer chosen to present his work, Ashes, at the Rencontres Chorégraphiques Internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis in Paris. Most recently, Mr. Mills was awarded the Steinberg Award, the top honor at the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur International Choreographic Competition, for One/The Body’s Grace.
 
Mr. Mills has created more than 40 works for companies in the United States and abroad. His
ballets are in the repertories of such companies as The Hong Kong Ballet, American Ballet
Theatre Studio Company, The Atlanta Ballet, Washington Ballet, Cuballet in Havana, Cuba,
BalletMet Columbus, The Dayton Ballet, The Sarasota Ballet of Florida, Ballet Pacifica, Dallas Black Dance Theater, The Louisville Ballet, The Nashville Ballet, Fort Worth/Dallas Ballet, and Kaleidoscope.
 
Mr. Mills serves on the Board of Trustees of the national dance service organization, Dance USA.
 
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was a German composer, pianist, organist, and conductor of the early Romantic period. He wrote his first string symphony at twelve years old and was compared to Mozart as a child prodigy¾indeed, many say that his early work shows an intuitive and intellectual precocity that exceeded Mozart’s own. His music was influenced by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, and his most famous works include his Violin Concerto in E Minor, the Overture and incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his Italian and Scottish Symphonies, and his String Octet. Although his work is considered to be highly creative and inventive, he held rather conservative tastes in music of the time, and he founded the University of Music and Theatre in Leipzig, Germany, in the same tradition.
 
William Shakespeare(1564-1616) was an English playwright and poet and is regarded as the greatest writer in the history of the English language. In his lifetime he wrote over 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and 2 narrative poems. His surviving works have been translated into every major world language and his plays are performed more than any other playwright. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and spent most of his career in London with the company of actors known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later the King’s Men.


Director's Notes


Reviews


“…Exceptionally clear storytelling and spirited dancing…[Midsummer] hung together just about perfectly…[it’s] Mills at his comic best.” – Sarah Kaufman, Washington Post, 7 Jan 2002
 
“Mills launches [the body] into full natural rotation. Partners lift each other organically…the Mills dancer seeks ever-shifting social contact. This was never so clear as in his 1999 A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” – Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman, 26 Oct 2000
 
“…Intricate and precise as a many-faceted jewel...Mills accomplished the formidable task of making Midsummer humorous, clear and, in the end, a celebration of unadulterated ballet.” – Michael Barnes, Austin American-Statesman, 29 Mar 1999
 
 “Skip the bar scene and give Ballet Austin a chance to court you with romance…the company’s premiere of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream offers a humorously phantasmagoric feast for the eyes.” – Kendall Klym, Austin American-Statesman, 25 Mar 1999

Events


Studio Spotlight – A Midsummer Night's Dream
Thurs Sept 5, 2013
12 – 1pm or 6 – 7pm
Ballet Austin’s AustinVentures StudioTheater

Watch a professional dance company in action! Up-close, personal, and informal, Studio Spotlight gives guests a behind-the-scenes look at choreography and elements from the upcoming production while it is still in the works. This is the perfect lunchtime break or happy hour activity! Free admission for those who RSVP. Recommended for ages 8 and up. Minors must be accompanied by an adult.
Learn more or sign up.


Footlights – A Midsummer Night's Dream
One hour prior to all performances Sept 13 - 15, 2013
The Long Center

Just an hour before each production, join us in the theater for a look at the final preparations for this magical production. See the last-minute workings of dancers and production crew as you learn about the history, music, and artists involved in the production. Free for ticket holders. Learn more.

Get TicketsThe Long Center
8pm | Sept. 13, 14
3pm | Sept. 15

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Sponsored by:
Terry & Nikki Bryant Irion
Sarah and Ernest Butler Family Fund
Jo & Jon Ivester
Dr. & Mrs. Craig C. Kuglen
Jennene & K. Ray Mashburn
Anne & Cord Shiflet
Cathy & Dwight Thompson
 
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