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Fort Wayne Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream offers different interpretation of classic comedy
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
When the Fort Wayne Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream hits the stage on March 19th and 20th, Fort Wayne audiences will have the opportunity to see a completely different interpretation of this classic story of mistaken identity and the sometimes ridiculous entanglements of love.
Probably one of the most famous incidents in Shakespeare’s comedy involves Titania the Fairy Queen falling in love with a mortal whose head has been transformed into that of a donkey. As an illustration of the saying “love looks not with the eyes,” it can’t be beat, but a creature half-man/half donkey also makes a good metaphor for the ballet version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream — it’s kind of a strange animal.
“It has many lives, and takes on many forms,” says Fort Wayne Ballet artistic director Karen Gibbons-Brown, explaining the convoluted history of the ballet version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ballet began with incidental music composed by Felix Mendelssohn, intended to be played along with a production of the original Shakespeare play, but Mendelssohn only wrote about 35 minutes of incidental music. “George Balanchine was the first one to do the full evening ballet,” says Gibbons-Brown. “He added a lot of Mendelssohn works that weren’t in the original ballet.”
The Fort Wayne Philharmonic supplies the Mendelssohn. “You get a bunch of Mendelssohn that’s not heard all that often,” says Bradley Thachuk, who will be conducting the orchestra for the performance. “It’s the first performance ever of some of these pieces in Fort Wayne.”
So, what you have is a selection of rare Mendelssohn pieces, attached to a modern ballet. But it gets even more interesting. Gibbons-Brown was in a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream once before, but with different music. Gibbons-Brown ended up choreographing this production herself, building the choreography around principle dancer Lucia Rogers, who plays the roles of Titania and Hippolyta.
“I usually don’t enjoy choreography,” says Gibbons-Brown. “I’d far rather restage a ballet that I know from my own repertoire, than to create something. But she (Rogers) is such a delight to work with… she makes it appear easy.”
Lucia Rogers, a freshman at IPFW and part of the faculty at the Fort Wayne Ballet, says that dancing to a live orchestra is one of the aspects of the performance that she enjoys the most. “I like it better with a live orchestra,” she says. “It’s more exciting, it’s more like live theater. You don’t know if it’s ever going to be the same, so you get to play with the music.”
“You have a little more artistic freedom as a dancer,” adds Gibbons-Brown. “If you’re on your balance for that night, and you can hold it, and the conductor is watching your feet, you have an exciting live theater moment that you don’t ever recreate again.” Gibbons-Brown credits Thachuk with being especially good at responding to the dancers.
“For my job, I have to follow the feet, and that’s a skill in itself,” Thachuk says. “We’re lucky that we have a ballet company here. A lot of ballet companies in some places are solely dance schools, and it’s nice to have a ballet that mounts performances with the orchestra.”
For the audience, the production is a real spectacle, with narration by WBNI’s Janice Furtner, and elaborate costume work by Fort Wayne Ballet’s Tess Heet that captures the story’s fantastical elements. “She’s really outdone herself,” says Gibbons-Brown.
The Fort Wayne Ballet presents
A Midsummer Night's Dream
March 19 & 20 at 2 pm
Performing Arts Center, 3030 E Main Street
Tickets: Call Fort Wayne Ballet (260) 484-9646 ext. 12 or visit www.fortwayneballet.org for additional information.