This March, the Evanston Dance Ensemble will premiere its completely reimagined production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In six performances over four days (March 15-16 at 7pm and March 17-18 at 1pm and 4pm) audiences at The Josephine Louis Theater will get to see Shakespeare’s widely loved romantic comedy in a brand new light. Adapted and choreographed by Evanston Dance Ensemble Artistic Directors Christina Ernst and Béa Rashid, the production is a masterclass in collaboration. Award winning composer Steve Rashid has put together a brand new original score for the production, which includes additional movement design by eight other noted choreographers.
It is full of fantasy, romance, confrontation, humor and magic. How did Shakespeare do that? How did he build the perfect narrative for audiences of all generations?
We asked Evanston Dance Ensemble’s Béa Rashid to tell us just a little more about this complex creative adventure, beginning with how she even got such a bold idea. Here’s what Béa told us:
Johnny Nevin: What inspired you to choose A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the idea for this ballet?
Béa Rashid: I just love, love, love this story. It is full of fantasy, romance, confrontation, humor and magic. How did Shakespeare do that? How did he build the perfect narrative for audiences of all generations? I have also been in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I remember having the best time of my life bringing that show to the stage. I felt it could translate to dance, using the language of the body to communicate Shakespeare’s verse, his prose, his poetry.
And who doesn’t love all the characters? Titania and Oberon, King and Queen of the Fairies; Puck, the mischief maker; Bottom the weaver magically turned into an ass; Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, the four Romantics, who go from loving to despising and back to loving each other. What fun! what frolic! What comedy!
Collaboration is not a problem when each of the contributors is so very talented and creative.
Johnny: This production is a hugely collaborative work, with the original score by Steve Rashid and eight other choreographers contributing to the project. What has it been like, the process of both creating your own choreography and balancing the work of all the other collaborators?
Béa: Collaboration is not a problem when each of the contributors is so very talented and creative. The characters of the show are grouped. You have the Fairyland, which is choreographed by Christina Ernst and Enid Smith; the Mechanicals, choreographed by Aaron White; the Romantics, choreographed by Bea Rashid; Titania and Oberon, choreographed by Stephanie Martinez and the magical Western Flower, choreographed by Allison Kurtz Volkers. There are also some Fairy solos, choreographed by Mike Gosney, Julie Cartier, Laura Gates and Laura Brand.
The worlds collide and this is when all chaos breaks out and comedy reigns.
We all met to talk through the production conceptually, and discuss the narrative and the direction the music may take. Some of the choreographers worked in silence to set their choreography, or they found a piece of music that captured the feel or the narrative of the scene. The scene was then videoed and sent to Steve, who would score the scene. Sometimes Steve would write the music first and give it to the choreographer, and they would work with that.
Here is the good news, I implicitly trust the other Choreographers. They each bring their own take on the characters, their own movement vocabulary, which is great, because each these character groups are truly in their own world. The worlds collide and this is when all chaos breaks out and comedy reigns.
Evanston Dance Ensemble’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be presented at The Josephine Louis Theater (20 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston 60208) on Thursday March 15 at 7pm, Friday March 16 at 7pm, Saturday March 17 at 1pm and at 4pm, and on Sunday March 18 at 1pm and 4pm. Tickets are available online from the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University, or by calling the box office at 847-491-7282.
PHOTOS: All photos by Matt Glavin, courtesy of Evanston Dance Ensemble