A Mid-October Night’s Dream

Demi-gods, fairies, kings and lovers from all those categories and more mingle, dance, fight, enchant and fall witlessly love in the Improbable Fictions’ staged reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Two performances will be given, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20 in the Bama Theatre’s Greensboro Room, and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21 in the courtyard at Kentuck, 503 Main Avenue. The Friday performance will move indoors to the Kentuck Annex in case of inclement weather. Both are free and open to the public, though seating is limited. Pre-show music will begin at 7 p.m. each night. Call 205-310-5287, or visit the Facebook site Improbable Fictions: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — Staged Reading, for more.  $1 donations to the Bama Theatre Restoration Fund are appreciated.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies for numerous reasons. The thunderous relationship between jealous fairy king Oberon and his lover-queen Titania intensifies underlying tensions in the upcoming marriage of Duke Theseus, son of Poseidon and founder of Athens, to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, a marriage forged in political necessity but seeking grounds in love. Four younger lovers interchange, magically and comically, the rude mechanicals entertain with their good hearts and somewhat weak minds, and Puck, well, Puck becomes an adjectival form.

Theseus seeks to make peace between his friend Egeus and Egeus’ daughter Hermia, who doesn’t want to marry her father’s chosen heir, Demetrius. Hermia loves Lysander; they plan to marry. Demetrius wants Hermia, very likely for the dowry, and Egeus wants his daughter to either follow his wishes, or by Athenian law, hie her to a nunnery…or to death. Knowing that his future wife Hippolyta is watching, Theseus treads softly, but sticks to the law.

In frustration and fear, Hermia and Lysander bolt into the woods, followed closely by Demetrius and Helena, Hermia’s friend who is in love with — and has been loved by — Demetrius.

The Athenian forest is the domain of wild, magical beings. Oberon and Titania, their king and queen, feud over each others’ affairs, and a child that may have resulted. Oberon enchants his sleeping beloved to fall in love with the very next thing she sees, with the help of his wild child helper Puck.

The next thing she sees is an ass, in dual meanings of the word. Bottom is the loudest of a band of bad players, rough tradesmen (or rude mechanicals) rehearsing a play for the Duke’s upcoming nuptials. Puck transforms his braying by giving him the head of a jackass. Titania, following the compulsion from the flower’s juice dropped in her eyes, falls for the ass.

Puck, as instructed by Oberon, also enchants the Athenian to fall in love with Helena — but gets the wrong young man. The two who had pursued Hermia now want nothing to do with her, and Helena finds herself with more attention than she can bear.

Eventually, all’s well — as another play said — through love and magic and best intentions, which sometimes overrule logic and the letter of the law.


Sponsored by the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies, the UA English Dept., and the UA College of Arts and Sciences


IF’s September reading of Euripides’ Hecuba packed out the Greensboro Room at the Bama Theatre. And I’ve learned that UA’s APO is offering pledge points to students that attend IF events. And the reading was reviewed by The Dome. There’s nothing tragic about that!

Here are a few thoughts on the production from the director, Steve Burch, the cast list, and some rehearsal photos courtesy of Jason Pan.

Hecuba by Euripides

An Improbable Fictions staged reading

Sept. 22, 2011, Bama Theatre

Cast (in order of appearance):

Polydorus: Joey Gamble

Polymestor: Russell Frost

Hecuba: Deborah Parker

Coryphaeus: Karen Baker

Chorus #1 : Susie Johnson

Chorus #2 : Adella Smith

Chorus #3 : Phoebe Threatt

Chorus #4 : Amber Gibson

Polyxena: Natalie Hopper

Odysseus: Nic Helms

Talthybius: James Wesley Glass

Agamemnon: David Ainsworth

Soldier/Son: Tyler Spindler

Soldier/Son: Eric Marable, Jr.

Adaptor/Director: Steve Burch

Hecuba is a prisoner’s tragedy; if a modern analogy be permitted, a concentration camp play . . . . [It] is born out of contemporary experience; it is a bitterly human and darkly profound reflection of the ills of the Peloponnesian War . . . . Thucydides reflected upon the frightful demoralization and deprivation which the war had brought about in individual as well as in social and political life. Euripides, in his Hecuba, presents a similar indictment of this time; and, in its universal meaning, going beyond his time, of man’s insufficiency and cruelty.

As a prisoner’s tragedy, the Hecuba has three main aspects:

  1. the suffering of the enslaved women
  2. the characters of her masters and tormentors
  3. the effect which unbearable suffering has on her.

Here, in this last aspect, lies the real and truly terrible tragedy: Under the pressure of torture beyond endurance, the sufferer becomes as bestial as the tormentors. A most pitiable woman is transformed into a fiery-eyed dog . . . . We will learn [over the course of the play] what it means to be a prisoner . . . . The tragedy of Hecuba, the prisoner, ends in her moral destruction. The forces that destroy her are realistically presented and forever symbolized in Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Polymestor . . . . But who are those who represent human decency, or even greatness, in this play? Not the “kings” who hold the power; but a child who has not lived yet, a [messenger] and unnamed soldiers. They remain on the sidelines of the action, and have no influence on the course of events.