Geneva's Shakespeare in the Park to present 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Geneva's Shakespeare in the Park to present 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Fairies will roam Island Park causing mischief and mayhem at this year's Shakespeare in the Park event in Geneva.

Watch the forest come alive with their magic at Goodly Creatures Theatre's performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17. This lighthearted classic tale focuses on runaway lovers, comedic misunderstandings and fairy feuds. It is suitable for all ages.

Helena (Jayde Al-Angary), right, is in love with Demetrius (Justin Green) and chases him into the forest as he pursues Hermia. Goodly Creatures Theatre's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for Shakespeare in the Park will take place Saturday, July 17, on Island Park, Geneva. Courtesy of Goodly Creatures Theatre

The show begins with Hermia fighting for her freedom to love the man of her choosing. She rejects her father's choice of Demetrius, then flees Athens for the forest with her true love, Lysander.

Demetrius follows, and on his heels is Helena, his spurned lover who hopes to rekindle their love.

In the forest, Fairy King Oberon takes pity on Helena and charges his fairy aid Puck to change the heart of rude Demetrius to favor lovesick Helena, but the plan goes sideways.

"Puck botches the whole operation, casting the spell on the happy lovers instead of Demetrius and Helena. Puck and Oberon must remedy the situation while jealous quarrels and comic misunderstandings ensue," said Katrina Syrris, founder and artistic director of Elgin-based Goodly Creatures Theatre.

While the fairies cause confusion and the lovers argue, a group of artisans wander into the forest to rehearse a play and one becomes ensnared in fairy magic. The artisan players provide comic relief, said Juan Sedonio, who plays Francis Flute and Thisbe in the play within the play.

"All of the characters have their moment to show the most radical side anyone can ever imagine," he said.

The character of Flute very reluctantly acts the female lead of the play within a play, and their overacting makes it another source of comedy.

Setting the stage for romance

During a rehearsal for "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Hermia (Veronica Tripp) argues with her father Egeus (Faiz Siddique) because she does not love the man he wants her to marry. The play takes place July 17 in Geneva. Courtesy of Goodly Creatures Theatre

While comedic elements entertain, the romantic nature of the play is what makes it memorable. Goodly Creatures brings charming elements to the stage, adding fanciful backdrops and vibrant Renaissance costumes that complement the park's natural setting and create the ambience for the classic romantic comedy, Syrris said.

And Island Park is an ideal setting for a play that takes place primarily in the forest, she noted.

"The park's looming trees, open sky and proximity to the Fox River will draw the audience into our whimsical fantasy," Syrris said.

Adding to the romantic vibe is original music by Eunice Ayodele, who plays Fairy Queen Titania. A mezzo-soprano, Ayodele composed and recorded her performance of the fairy ballad sung to Titania.

Her composition includes Shakespeare's lyrics and her own original music and vocals.

Accessing Shakespeare

Fairy King Oberon (Nathan Chesterfield) rules the forest with Queen Titania (Eunice Ayodele). After a disagreement, he casts a magic spell on her, resulting in comedic confusion. Island Park in Geneva is the backdrop for this production. Courtesy of Goodly Creatures Theatre

Goodly Creatures specializes in breathing new life into classic works of literature to make them accessible to all.

Actors' command of language, expressive body language and humorous gags bring clarity to the difficult-sounding language of Shakespeare, Syrris said.

"Shakespeare can be intimidating to listen to at first, but, in my experience, by the end of the first scene of a Shakespeare play your ear becomes used to the language," said John Drea, who plays Puck.

"My priority is to make clear my relationships to all the other characters - how do they make Puck feel? Puck is not a subtle creature. He lives in the big and the bold, and a lot of his humor lies in giving in to the size of his personality."

'Midsummer's' deeper message

"'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is Shakespeare's comedic commentary on the unpredictable nature of love, youthful drive for independence from obsolete old ways, and the ineffable concept of fate, endearingly explained by fairy magic," Syrris said.

Shakespeare wrote the play at a time when marriage was a business transaction and a woman had little say in the matter.

Fairy King Oberon (Nathan Chesterfield), left, and his aid, Puck (John Drea), cause mischief in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," which will be presented by Geneva's Shakespeare in the Park on July 17. Courtesy of Goodly Creatures Theatre

"The hilarious performance may not seem at first glance to contain a moral, but it does," Syrris added. "Love is all that matters, and that's a message that has been relevant since time immemorial."

"Midsummer" also presents issues for the audience to ponder as it explores themes such as destiny, humankind's need for art to make sense of our experiences, "and, how, in spite of our best efforts, we often get our signals crossed and our perceptions wrong, and how these misunderstandings are the cause of most of our strife," Syrris said.

"Shakespeare calls us to take a closer look at our human flaws, to be more discerning, more communicative, and accept that not everything is always under our control."

• • •

Shakespeare in the Park

What: Shakespeare in the Park's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" presented by the City of Geneva Cultural Arts Commission

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 17; seating begins at 4:30 p.m.

Where: Island Park, 2 E. State St., Geneva

Admission: Free

Bring: Portable chairs, blankets and picnics

Parking: Available at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., and the Route 31 overflow commuter parking lot, just south of the Union Pacific railroad underpass. The park is just a short walk using the covered railroad pedestrian bridge to cross the Fox River.

For information: Call (630) 938-4530 or visit Find information about Goodly Creatures at

Sneak peek: Geneva residents are invited to attend a Shakespeare in the Park preview event at 7 p.m. Friday, July 16, at the Geneva Public Library as part of its weeklong anniversary celebration. The preview features a few short scenes from the play, plus a Q&A session with the director and actors. To register, visit, or call the library at (630) 232-0780 for more information.

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