It is easy to forget Baghdad as it once was and view it only as the tragedy it is today. But once upon a time, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates was the cradle of civilization. It was the land of Scheherazade and The Arabian Nights and before that, Gilgamesh.
It is the dream of the Baghdad-that-was that inspires A2CT’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Set nearly a thousand years ago, the production hopes to evoke the vibrancy of a region once regarded as the cultural center of the world.
Reworking the play’s characters and text, director Jeff Meyers has incorporated Mesopotamian legend along with historical personalities to reflect the play’s new setting. From Kaliphah Harun al Rashid to Enkidu (the bestial companion of Gilgamesh), Midsummer’s fantasy (and much of its story) remains intact but its sensibilities have been transformed. Most notably, the play-within-a-play, “Pyramus and Thisbe,” has been replaced by “The Tale of Aziz and Azizah” from “A Thousand One Nights.”
With each passing year our world gets smaller and our country becomes more diverse. Southeast Michigan, in particular, is home to some of the largest Middle-Eastern-American communities in the nation. Ann Arbor Civic Theatre sees a unique opportunity to reach out to these communities. Taking a cue from Shakespeare’s use (some might say, misuse) of history and fantasy, this marriage of Shakespeare’s text to Middle Eastern culture is a metaphor for how A2CT hopes two communities can come together to create something unique and beautiful.
To assist in outreach for this production, A2CT received a grant from The Mosiac Foundation, an American charitable organization which promotes awareness, understanding, and appreciation between the peoples of the Arab World and the United States through its charitable, humanitarian, and cultural involvement in both regions.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” stars Ahmed Muslimani, Russell Rabb, Katina Nichols, Mia Mollicone, Margaret Teal, John Prakapas, Jon Stockdale, Brittany Batell, Sean Sabo, Tom Foley, Lauren Moss, Mark Batell, Brandon Cave, Lisa Teets, Laurel Neff, and Karishma Singh. It is directed by Jeff Meyers, former artistic director and founder of Theatre Vertigo in Portland, Oregon and director of A2CT’s 2005 production of “All My Sons.”
The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre presents Shakespeare’s comedic fantasy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” November 15-18 at Lydia Mendelssohn Theater on The University of Michigan campus. Performances are Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults and $17 for students and seniors Friday through Sunday, and $13 for all tickets on Thursday. Friday night is student night, with half-price tickets of $10 for all students. Sunday is senior day, with half-price tickets of $10 for all seniors. Tickets are available at the A2CT office at 322 W. Ann St, by calling the office at 971-2228, online at www.a2ct.org or at the door. Additional information is available by visiting www.a2ct.org.