While actors across the world study the works of Shakespeare, many find his writing to be old fashioned and hard to understand. After all, this year marks 400 years since the English playwright’s death.
However, to commemorate Shakespeare’s life and legacy, the North Riverside Players selected A Midsummer Night’s Dream for this fall’s play production. It’s the first time the troupe has tackled Shakespeare.
“North Riverside, to my knowledge, has never done a Shakespeare work and it’s great because even people who say, ‘I’m not a Shakespeare fan’ can come and enjoy this show,” said Olivia Landa, a North Riverside resident and longtime Players actor who is playing Cobweb, one of the fairies. “It’s a fun and fast-paced show, not bogged down with heavy dialogue, and anyone who can come will understand it.”
The show, one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, follows four young lovers and a group of amateur actors with their interactions with woodland fairies, a duke and a duchess. The show, which takes place in a mythical Athens, features characters including a handsome fairy king, misguided parent, lovers and elves and centers on the idea of falling in love.
Director Jay Fontanetta says he chose the show this fall specifically to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
“For many of us, this is the only time we can commemorate something like this having to do with Shakespeare’s life,” he said.
Fontanetta said this summer, he noticed several area theaters took advantage of the anniversary to showcase Shakespeare productions and figured there was no better time to do the same.
“We decided to jump on that bandwagon and to do his professionally most famous comedy,” he said.
This fall’s cast includes 23 local actors who have rehearsed three times a week since the first week of August.
“As a working artist, I enjoy the Players because they are a blend between a small community theater but yet large enough that we have the capacity to do larger-scale productions,” Landa said.
Fontanetta believes the community will come out to see the show despite what he calls a “false reputation” of Shakespeare’s works being irrelevant and hard to comprehend.
“I think there is a stigma associated with Shakespeare,” he said. “People don’t go see it because they’re afraid it’s old-fashioned or that they’re not going to understand the language.
“I think people should come and give it a try.” Shakespeare is very accessible when done well. … We’ve got a really dedicated group of actors that have tried really hard to take Shakespeare and make it fun and understandable.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at the North Riverside Village Commons, 2401 Desplaines Ave. in North Riverside, Sept. 30-Oct. 2 and Oct. 7-9. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., while Sunday shows start at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors over 60 and $13 for children under 12 and can be purchased online at www.nrplayers.com or by calling 708-512-7015.