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FWDC’s annual fundraiser invites you to live the Dream
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Shakespeare’s genius is pretty much a given, but he must have been having a particularly inspired day when he chose A Midsummer Night’s Dream as the title of his intricate comedy. He could have gone the Romeo and Juliet route and called it Hermia and Lysander or Oberon and Titania or something along those lines. But instead, he chose a title that perfectly evokes the story’s hazy mix of the fantastical and the earthly, the sense of events taking place in “our world,” but not fully “our world.” In other words, it’s like a dream.
The story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream serves as the framework for Lovestruck, the Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s annual immersive theater fundraiser. Now in its third year, the event blurs the line between audience and performance, in essence putting you in the midst of the action, letting you explore the setting and watch the story unfold.
The Fort Wayne Dance Collective has ventured into immersive theater twice before, inviting audiences into the Verona of Romeo and Juliet with Starcrossed in 2013, and then down the rabbit hole with Alice in last year’s Wonderland.
The events have proven very popular. They are also some of the more unique and ambitious undertakings in Fort Wayne’s arts community. It’s a complicated performance combining several “moving parts” (literally) and a big cast — Lovestruck features 25 dancers; it’s non-linear; and there’s no fourth wall separating the audience from the performance. On top of that, the entire concept of immersive theater is a little tricky to get your head around. “I use the phrase ‘choose your own adventure,” says Heather Brackeen, who serves as Lovestruck’s dramatic director, for lack of a more precise term. “The way the performance is constructed, an audience member can pursue or follow a character or storyline that interests them.”
In immersive theater, the site serves as the stage, so its apt that the Botanical Gardens serves as the site for Lovestruck, a story where a group of characters — some of them fairies and sprites — spend quite a lot of time running around in a forest late at night.
Brackeen explains that there will be simultaneous dances happening in three rooms. Each represents a different aspect of the story — the courtly dancers; the fairy kingdom; and the “rustics,” i.e. the commoners who get caught up in the antics of the nobility and the supernatural beings. A handful of sprites will serve as informal guides to audience members transitioning from one space to the next. “All of it has that fantasy feel to it,” Brackeen says. “It’s like a journey into the unknown.”
Puck — Oberon’s “shrewd and knavish sprite” — also provides verbal guidance for the audience, but unlike performance from past years, there isn’t much dialogue in Lovestruck — the story is mostly told through dance.
The show happens on a loop — dancers go through the production two times — with the finale happening outside with a live band — Hope Arthur, leading a quartet.
Like with Wonderland and Starcrossed, the Fort Wayne Dance Collective has been able to pull together a wealth of diverse talent to lend their skills to Lovestruck. As we said above, Brackeen serves as the production’s dramatic director — she helped adapt the story, build the transitions and generally develop the project (she also worked on Wonderland). But the “driving force” behind all three fundraisers has been FWDC’s Alison Gerardot. In addition to being the choreography director on Lovestruck, Gerardot handles the production’s technical aspects; she even secures the sites.
Besides Gerardot and Brackeen, there are seven choreographers for Lovestruck, and among the show’s 25 cast members are many FWDC teachers and students, as well as several dancers from outside the organization. And not “just” dancers — sound, music, set design, and a host of other elements are handled by people both a part of the Arts United umbrella and beyond.
“It’s wonderful when we can do cross collaborations like this,” says Brackeen. “It’s great when people step out of whatever organization they’re typically affiliated with and say ‘I believe in the mission of the FWDC and I want to help’.”
Supporting the mission of the FWDC is, of course, the point of the annual event. The production helps raise funds for two important elements of FWDC’s mission. The first is scholarships for students. “Anyone who wants to dance with FWDC gets that opportunity,” Brackeen says.
The second is outreach programming. “The FWDC has outreach programs in five of the neediest schools in FWCS,” says Brackeen. “FWCS does not fund these programs, and we get so many positive testimonials from students who have been involved with them. Events like Lovestruck give right back to these programs. It’s something we’re very passionate about.”
Tickets for Lovestruck are $42 in advance and $50 at the door. To purchase tickets visit fwdc.org or call (260) 424-6574
You can also visit fwdc.org to find out more about Fort Wayne Dance Collective, and to watch a trailer for Lovestruck.
The Fort Wayne Dance Collective presents Lovestruck
Friday, September 11
Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory
1100 South Calhoun
Doors open at 7 PM. Cash bar. Desserts will be provided.
Show starts at 8 PM.