A Fairy World Of Limitless Possibility

Thursday, May 22, 2008 Leave a Comment

How does this entry relate to Flux's full production of A Midsummer Night's Dream?

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Hannah Rose Peck as Cobweb, Caitlin Kinsella as Mustardseed, Tiffany Clementi as Pease Blossom)

In Flux's Season of Transformation, the central theme is how life transforms the body against the body's will. In Midsummer, that transformation ends in marriage, and is therefore a comedy in the classic sense (order restored by the affirmation of life in the union of marriage). It is also, of course, ridiculously funny.

But just as a tragedy like Hamlet is also funny, we should not assume that a comedy (especially one of Shakespeare's) is without significant darkness. In fact, the darker and more dangerous the world of the play, the more satisfying the return to light. Given the centrality of the body to our season, we are setting a fairy world of limitless physical possibility against a mortal world fraught with loss.

Specifically, this means creating a stage language where the characters do not always reside in the bodies of the actors playing them. The fairies can be as small as a pin or as big as the stage; they can take corporeal shape and disappear in a blink; and their energy and agency can manifest in all sorts of theatrically surprising ways. By creating a fairy world that is bound only by the complicit imaginations of the actors and audience; we will draw a sharp contrast with the mortal world, where the limited humans, trapped in their bodies, have their hearts and shapes transformed by fairies against their will.

The primary language to accomplish this is shadow, drawn from Oberon's status as "King of Shadows" and Puck's end of play plea, "If we shadows have offended".

(Michael Davis as the King of Shadows. Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum).

-Oberon can manifest his will by throwing his shadow across the stage, and his first several entrances are preceded by his shadow's appearance.
-Bottom's initial transformation into an ass happens behind a backlit screen, projecting the openly theatrical costume change in shadow across the rude mechanicals.
-Puck's shape-shifting to terrorize the mechanicals is accomplished behind the screen, with the bodies of the fairies creating hog, horse and headless bear.
-Bottom's second transformation, the purgation of his mortal grossness by Titania, is seen through an increasingly rapid shadow silhouette thrown across the stage from various angles.
-The changeling boy is represented by a child's silhouette in a ball of light.
-The prologue and epilogue begin and end with Puck appearing, and then leaving, Oberon's shadow.

The secondary language is shared agency, where Oberon, Puck and Titania use the fairies to extend their being and accomplish their will.

-Titania and Oberon use the fairies to extend their stage size: Titania with her long, snake-like train of moon-silver; and Oberon with his high and wide plume of dark shadow
-Puck steals the voices of the fairies to echo her shape-shifting terrorizing of the mechanicals.
-Puck steals the voices of the lovers to lead them astray.
-The fairies themselves share an agency, splitting the lines of the First Fairy amongst all five, both separate and connected, almost like a hive mind.

The tertiary stage language used to create the limitless fairy world is the rules of assuming corporeal shape.

-The fairies have three states of stage presence: the first, a neutral state where they can be seen by Oberon, Titania and the audience but can only be felt or sensed by the mortals; the second, a wisp of light created by a hand held LED, that flickers in and out of vision when they speak or briefly manifest shape; and the third and most tangible (visible to mortals), a fairy created by the face of the actor speaking, and the hands of the actors behind, accomplished through face paint delineating the 'fairy body' and the LED held below the face, cutting it off from the actor's body. Having the face of the actor be the body of the fairy also reinforces the synesthesia of the play.
-Oberon and Titania can become invisible simply through will (or, more comically, by saying, "I am invisible", as in Oberon's case.)

The final stage language used is the linkage of the natural world to the emotional state of the fair characters.


-This is accomplished most notably through Titania's words regarding the natural disasters caused by the dispute between her and Oberon.
-Titania's train also becomes the river that Bottom sees himself in, and when Bottom accidentally steps in the river, Titania awakes and sees the angel. The river is both water and an extension of herself, which she will then use to wrap Bottom in a cocoon of her power for the purgation of his mortal grossness.
-When Oberon and Titania battle, the trees of the forest shake and bend as their unseen power shoots back and forth.
-Both Titania and Puck can make the trees move to block Bottom from leaving, or lead the lovers to their sleeping destination.

Of course, the greatest stage language used to accomplish the incorporeal limitlessness of the fairy world is Shakespeare's language, where Puck can "make a girdle about the earth in forty minutes" and the first fairy can travel "swifter than the moon's sphere".

And by creating this limitlessness, the mortal world, fraught with war, loss and a tyrannical state that denies natural love, will seem all the more dangerous and limited. With that great divide between the two worlds established, Bottom's sojourn across the divide becomes much more than just a goofy ass french-kissing fairy, but rather a mortal's rare brush with something divine.

(Photo: Isaiah Tanenbaum. Hannah Rose Peck as Cobweb, Caitlin Kinsella as Mustardseed, Tiffany Clementi as Pease Blossom)

And a more candid fairy shot to remind us that this is, after all, a play...