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February 25, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 25, 2005

A bit more of the Bard A bit more of the Bard (February 25, 2005)

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" playing for families

By Julie O'Shea

Shakespeare's Puck, Oberon, Bottom and Lysander have been hanging out in Mountain View since January.

Characters from the Bard's wildly popular comedy, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," were the stars of TheatreWorks last show, "Shakespeare in Hollywood," which closed earlier this month. But if you didn't catch them on stage then, don't worry, they'll be sticking around for a little while.

The San Francisco and Silicon Valley Shakespeare Festivals will be presenting a 55-minute version of "A Midsummer's Night Dream" at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center next week. The show is part of the two companies' "Shakespeare on Tour" program, which brings the works of the famed 15th-century playwright into classrooms around California.

This truncated version of the romantic comedy about mortals and fairies creating havoc in a wood near Athens is performed by just five actors, who play at least three characters each. The show has been on tour since October and has played in more than 300 schools around the state.

This marks the first time the group has performed in Mountain View.

"The Peninsula has been sort of an underserved market, and I'm hoping to change that," said Philip Gust, a board member of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, who works in Mountain View.

"Mountain View is the most expensive venue we have ever performed in. We are really doing something new here," Gust added. "My biggest nightmare is that nobody comes."

To rent out the performing arts center's second stage for the afternoon is costing the Shakespeare festival more than $800. The cost could be covered if the group sells out the 150-seat theater for the two shows, running at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on March 5. Tickets are $5 for adults and free for children 12 years and younger.

Gust said festival organizers feel so strongly about exposing children to Shakespeare that they are underwriting the cost of admission for youngsters. However, he stressed that the festival is still looking for corporate sponsors and will take checks until March 3 to secure an ad in the playbill.

Rebecca Ennals, who oversees the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival's education programs, was the one responsible for shaving "A Midsummer Night's Dream" down to less than an hour.

"I cut a lot of the pretty parts (like all those soliloquies about nature)," said Ennals, who also directs the show.

Although she removed a lot, Ennals promised that the gist of the story remains intact. There are still the two sets of lovers (Hermia and Demetrius, and Helena and Lysander); the quarreling king and queen of the fairies (Oberon and Titania); and the bit about a guy (Bottom) turning into a donkey.

Gust added that Ennals and her actors tailor each performance to the the age range of the audience. For instance, if they are performing in front of high school students, they'll highlight the show's love and romance themes.

What's great about "Dream," Gust and Ennals agreed, is that it is so fast-paced and action-packed that even kids as young as 5 and 6 will be able to enjoy the antics of some of Shakespeare's quirkiest characters.

"Rebecca did a great job of cutting it down," Gust said. "It's better than Cliff Notes. She can do it all."

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]
What: The San Francisco and Silicon Valley Shakespeare Festivals present "A Midsummer Night's Dream," by William Shakespeare

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts' Second Stage, 500 Castro St. When:March 5 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Cost: $5 for adults; free for children 12 and younger Call: (415) 422-2222

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