"Come now, a roundel and a fairy song!" With those words, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will serenade downtown Wilmington audiences. After its three smaller outdoor July offerings, Delaware Shakespeare was longing to mount a big show, something the company has missed for over two years. “We’re excited to return to full production with what we think is the first theater performance ever in Rodney Square,” said David Stradley, Delaware Shakespeare's producing artistic director.
'Tis the season
This magical play is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, and this urban production is populated with Del Shakes regulars accustomed to working in unusual spaces, a company hallmark. Dream is directed by award-winning Philadelphia theater artist Bi Jean Ngo, who helmed the company’s 2018 Much Ado About Nothing and has been creating programming throughout the pandemic as a Del Shakes’ resident artist. Ngo finds it exciting to rehearse and work in the heart of the city, affording “a chance for us to re-engage with each other as a community and to celebrate our humanity.”
About Rodney Square, Mariah Ghant (portraying Titania, the fairy queen) says, “It’s beautiful. It’s massive, so it feels a little daunting but also exciting because we get to fill [it]. And there’s all this space for the audience!” As Oberon, the fairy king, Eric Mills notes that the square will provide a great backdrop for the play’s constantly changing scenes. “We are in the center of the city, so we have a lot of contending sounds and action. But that’s the fun of outdoor theater.”
With the Hotel Du Pont’s period facade as its backdrop, the production’s “stage” is a bank of stone steps in the newly renovated square. Navigating them has been one of the company’s challenges, especially critical for choreographer Adiah Simpson and fight choreographer Steve Wei because this play is filled with physicality. Wei has been working to stage fights and action sequences by building up “safe” choreography on the multilevel set. “It’s a matter of checking in for each person to see “how do [I] feel about this body shape I am making in this unusual space?” Once choreography is set, performers will “go along this safe track we’ve made.”
Nine actors will portray the play’s 21 characters: kings and queens, nobles, fairies incited by the spritely Puck (Annie Fang), and the “rude mechanicals,” a comical troupe of rustics led by the voluble Bottom (Tanaquil Márquez). The 90-minute show (running for three evenings and a Sunday matinee) also features a chorus of students and volunteers from the Choir School of Delaware. And to add to the fairytale atmosphere, there’s original live music by Arreon Harley-Emerson and Jonathan Whitney (who’s also the percussionist).
“Right now, we could all use a little more magic in our lives—and a little more love,” says Stradley. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream gives us both.”
What, When, Where
Delaware Shakespeare presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream. By William Shakespeare, directed by Bi Jean Ngo. Free. Through September 16-18 at 7pm, September 19 at 4pm, at Rodney Square, 1000 North Market Street, Wilmington DE. (302) 468-4890 or delshakes.org
Click for audience information, including a map and travel details. Rodney Square is wheelchair-accessible; parking is available on the street or in nearby garages. Masks are encouraged; social-distanced seating and Covid protocols are in accordance with current Delaware stipulations. General admission seating; no alcohol; bring lawn chairs (30” or under) or blankets.