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Arts and Entertainment

Shakepeare at the Art Museum Amphitheatre

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(Photo courtesy Ozarks Technical Community College)
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Actors Theatre of Missouri and the Springfield Art Museum, in association with Rice Theatricals and The Dangerous Playground present a "Shakespeare in the Park" production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at 7:00pm Friday and Saturday August 21 and 22, as well as Thursday through Saturday the 27th-29th, at the outdoor amphitheater adjacent to the Springfield Art Museum, 1111 E. Brookside Drive.  (In case of rain they'll move the production indoors to the Art Museum auditorium.) David Rice directs this production.

It's a night of magic, marriage, love and comedy in Shakespeare's most popular comic play, written around 1595.  "It's got something for everyone," says Elizabeth Kaatz, who plays Titania, Queen of the Fairies. Adds Jon Herbert, who plays Titania's contentious husband Oberon, "It's a terrific fairy tale, combined with a beautiful and hilarious romantic comedy-meets-fairy-tale."

Four young lovers and a group of amateur actors interact with woodland fairies and a duke and duchess in a mythical Athens and an enchanted forest.  Falling in love has always been the world's most popular pastime, but as the wily sprite Puck knows, falling in love can make fools of us all. 

This is Elizabeth Kaatz's first outing as Titania, and she talked about the process she underwent to prepare for the role. "For me it starts with research, going over previous performances, what the role has meant to other people.  Of course, because I'm a young actor, I like to put me own youthful spin on things. I like to collaborate with--especially Jon, playing Oberon, because so much of what I do is playing off of what he does... especially in our big arguments and our fights!  It's very much back and forth."  (More on those "arguments and fights" in a moment.) Jon Herbert, meanwhile, has played Oberon, the King of the Fairies, once before. "With another producing company we did this play back in 2006 in Founders Park."

Jon describes his and Elizabeth's characters as "the King and Queen of the Fairies--extremely powerful beings.  We're married but we're sort of estranged right now."  Adds Elizabeth: "We're not getting along... and because we're so powerful, it's causing problems with the mortal world: droughts, famines, sicknesses..." "Climate change," adds Jon. Titania and her fairies dance to keep the weather in balance, but Oberon disrupts their dancing because Titania has something (more accurately, someone) he wants--"a little changeling boy.  I want him to be one of my henchmen and she won't give him to me."

Elizabeth quickly jumps in: "He's mine!" "Well," retorts Jon, "he needs to be mine!"

That's "method acting" for you... Jon and Elizabeth really get into their roles.  In fact, Jon admitted that "one night in rehearsal we just had this very elaborate, improvised fight!"  According to Elizabeth it "lasted about 20 minutes, with Titania and Oberon, in character, just having it out, attacking each other, hurling insults, eventually coming to some sort of truce--or at least a cease-fire!"

Lest we think Jon and Elizabeth don't get along in real life, it was absolutely nothing personal. As Jon explains, "We sort of needed to do that, to make sense of some of the things in the play. And that has definitely informed our characters.  It even created a few raised eyebrows from the other cast members!" Laughing, Elizabeth claims fellow actor Meg Rice just looked at them, sniffed "Ugh--you two are so Method!", and walked away in a huff! But as Jon suggested, they feel it contributes to their onstage relationship and their understanding of their characters.

Admission is free but donations will be gladly accepted. Bring a lawn chair or picnic blanket for seating. London Calling food truck will be onsite most evenings selling concessions.  For more information call the Springfield Art Museum at 837-5700 or visit www.sgfmuseum.org.