SARASOTA — Now entering its 5th year, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training New Stages Tour again brings its Shakespeare for All theme to young children throughout the state, many of whom will be experiencing their first dose of live theater. For 2014, A Midsummer Night's Dream will be adapted into a 45-minute production targeted at younger audiences. There will be a special opening night performance on Thursday, October 2 at 7 p.m. in Asolo Rep's Cook Theatre.
In Shakespeare's most beloved romantic comedy, four young lovers just can't seem to get it together. To escape from prying parents, Hermia and her beloved Lysander run away together. Demetrius, who also loves Hermia, and Helena, who loves Demetrius, secretly join the runaways in one spirited night of mischievous fairies and magical mayhem.
This season's New Stages Tour has a modern twist. Instead of Ancient Greece as its backdrop, this adaptation is set in a modern-day high school, a pressure-cooker of cliques, outsiders, jealousy, gossip and first love.
"The city of Athens becomes Athens Academy, a prestigious private school Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander all attend," said New York-based director Jen Wineman. "Hippolyta and Theseus rule the school as dean and principal, while the fairies are represented by rebellious teens who would rather hang out in the woods near the academy than go to class. While Midsummer deals heavily with magic, my hope is that students will be able to connect with the very human experiences the characters are dealing with: unrequited love, parental disapproval, a desire to rebel, and a need for self-expression. As Puck so aptly puts it, 'Lord, what fools these mortals be!'"
Last season's New Stages Tour production of Romeo and Juliet reached more than 14,000 students and community members. New Stages Tour productions are designed to travel, with minimal yet highly imaginative costumes and props. Asolo Rep's award-winning Education and Outreach Department provides multimedia study guides and other interactive classroom tools and programming to supplement the tour's school performances. Insightful post-show talkbacks with the performers follow the majority of performances.
“Teachers always want their students to make meaningful, personal connections when they read and analyze literature," said Kathryn Moroney, Asolo Rep's education and outreach director. "Our artists are modeling that very same relationship with Shakespeare each time they interpret a text and bring it to life. Many educators in the community requested Midsummer for the New Stages Tour, and we’re thrilled to offer this unique look at a play that is so well known and loved.”
This season, there will also be the first-ever New Stages Tour Family Day outdoor performance on October 11 at 2 p.m., which will be preceded by a warm-up and introduction to the story, and followed by a picnic. In the spirit of Shakespeare in the Park, the play will be performed free of charge in the outdoor amphitheater on the Out-of-Door Academy’s Siesta Key campus. The event is recommended for ages 9 and up; capacity is limited and reservations are required through the Asolo Rep Box Office.
The New Stages Tour company is comprised of third-year FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training students. The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, hailed as one the top 10 actor training programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report, is a comprehensive three-year Master of Fine Arts graduate degree program. Each season, thousands of aspiring actors across the country audition for 12 elite spots. During the third year of the program, Conservatory students join Asolo Rep's professional company of actors to perform in the theater's main stage productions.
“Asolo Rep’s commitment to serving our whole region through inspiring theater performances extends to our youngest audiences, many of whom experience live theater for the first time through our New Stages Tour,” said Michael Donald Edwards, producing artistic director of Asolo Rep. “Shakespeare’s timeless stories, our virtuoso ensemble of MFA Conservatory actors, and the education department’s dedicated work with teachers and schools all combine to bring outstanding artistry to the audiences and artists of the future.”
Tickets for the opening night performance are $25 and available by calling or visiting the box office (941.351.8000 or 800.361.8388; 5555 N. Tamiami Trail). For more information about Asolo Rep and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, visit www.asolorep.org.
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