Once a year, John Carroll University welcomes a professor, poet, novelist, playwright and so on, usually international, as part of the Hopkins Fellow professorship, named after the nineteenth century Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins.
This year, John Carroll University Department of English welcomes the five-member acting troupe “Actors from the London Stage” (AFTLS) and their performance of Shakespeare’s fantastical comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“It’s a good play for those who have never experienced Shakespeare to cut their teeth on,” said chair of JCU’s Department of English, John McBratney. “I find that I get a lot more out of watching a Shakespeare performance after I’ve read the play. It’s wonderful to be acquainted with the play on the page and then to see it on the stage.”
To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, JCU welcomes AFTLS back for the fourth time to treat JCU students, faculty and the community with a true Shakespearean experience.
Founded in 1975 by Homer Swander and world-renowned actor Sir Patrick Stewart, AFTLS is an actor-driven tour de force, visiting Notre Dame and touring throughout North America.
“I think it is a nice opportunity to have access to the English theater district and their great performers at an affordable price right here on our campus,” said assistant English professor, Jean Feerick. “We are hoping to transform Donahue auditorium with our technical staff and crew and teaming up with our marketing network and the help of the Cleveland Public Library to reach the active community and those interested in Shakespeare.
“The play is really about transformation,” said McBratney. “For a while, it looks like many of the characters in the play will be transformed in ways that are really awful. But it’s a comedy, so everything will come out alright in the end.”
The whole play is about taking things apart and recombining them in different ways,” said Feerick. “The play is really about how life is transformation and how the theater is an agent for transformation and how love too is an agent of radical dispossession of self. It carries on the dramatics of love. It’s one of Shakespeare’s sweet comedies.”
The five professional British actors from AFTLS will play multiple characters throughout the performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” bringing love, magic and mischief to life on a moonlit midsummer night.
“This form of acting multiple roles and doubling characters is true to the Shakespeare stage,” Feerick said. “Boys play women, servants play social superiors and the idea that their language and attire can constitute an identity on stage is a common occurrence.”
“With the change of an accessory or a very small prop, that actor will indicate a change in role,” said McBratney.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” highlights many Shakespearean themes of love and violence in an inventive and comical style.
“The play is an interesting mediation of the lack of autonomy, which is one of the greatest jokes within the play,” Feerick said. “There’s a critic that talks about how the play’s character Puck and the fairies are like a Renaissance or early modern imagining of the biological forces, we might call them hormones, and the different powers around us that control us. The representations of the rationalizations that humans think that are actually self-aggrandizing is pretty interesting. There’s an interesting conflation of poetry and drama and love.”
In addition to performing Shakespeare’s play for JCU audiences, AFTLS will also contribute to campus by conducting workshops within different classes.
“We would like students and members of the community to be exposed to the best performances of Shakespeare,” said McBratney.
“The actors will also visit classes to help students with oral presentations and public speaking in class. They won’t just visit literature or acting classes, but also biology classes and the counseling center.”
“AFTLS pitches itself as a group to help public speaking and how to support oneself,” said Feerick. “They serve as a resource that can be used widely or disseminated across the community. It’s not just about a performance, but it also has an educational component. I like how this opportunity attempts to expand the disciplines and the craft that accompanies these productions. English doesn’t own Shakespeare.”
“There’s nothing wrong with making Shakespeare popular,” commented McBratney. “Shakespeare saw himself as appealing to the populous.”
“Shakespeare never supervised the publication of his works,” added Feerick. “For him, it appears, that his plays were performative vehicles first and foremost. So what better way to commemorate than to perform and incorporate them into classes here on campus.”
Members of the Actors from the London Stage will reside at John Carroll University from March 14-18. In addition to providing workshops in class, AFTLS will perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Donahue Auditorium in the Dolan Science Center from March 17-19 at 7:00 p.m.
Editor’s Note: Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for non-students and are sold at the door (cash only). For further ticketing information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.