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June 07, 2010 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2010-06-07

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Monday, June 7, 2010
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom
Spending midsummer in the Arb


Shakespeare's 'A
Midsummer Night's
Dream' goes outside
Daily Arts Writer
Brilliant rays of afternoon sun
cast an undulating pattern on the
soft, wooded
ground of "A Midsummer
the Heath- Night's Dream'
dale exhibit in
Nichols Arbo- Every Thursday
retum. Among through Sunday in
the dense June at 6:30 p.m.
bushes, rhodo- Nichols Arboretum, Wash-
dendron buds ington Heights entrance
burst with flor- $18; tickets on sale the day
id tones. In this of the show at 5:30 p.m.
magical wood-
land, a fairy could appear behind a
blossom at any moment.
Such is the feeling that gripped

Shakespeare in the Arb Creative
Director Kate Mendeloff 10 years
ago when she began her first day of
rehearsal on "A Midsummer Night's
Dream." For the 10th anniversary of
Shakespeare in the Arb, an annual
production through the Residen-
tial College and Nichols Arboretum,
Mendeloff returns to the Heathdale
to enchant her audience with Shake-
speare's finest while celebrating the
The first two-week "Midsummer
Night's Dream" production in 2001
was meant to be a free one-time event
after the Arb received an arts grant
from Ford Motor Co. Mendeloff,
also a RC drama instructor, directed
a theatrical production with a por-
tion of the grant. She chose to pro-
duce Shakespeare rather than a more
modern playwright such as Chekhov
because Shakespeare is more grandi-
ose and less subtle - ideal for an out-
door location with a large audience.
Shakespeare's work also calls for vari-
ous settings, highlighting the Arb's
The play was so popular that Men-
deloff brought it back the following
year and charged for tickets to fund
the expenses. The show took off,
popularizing the Arb to Ann Arbor
residents, who had been more aware
of the Matthaei Botanical Gardens
before the two parks merged in 2004.
From 2002 on, Mendeloff produced
a different Shakespeare play each
year, including "The Tempest" and

peeking out of surrounding trees and
moving among the playgoers.
"The audience is really transported
to this magical world in a way that
in a theater it's almost impossible to
do," said Gray, an LSA alumnus who
played Helena in the original produc-
tion and plays Titania this year. "You
feel the grass underneath your feet,
and you really feel like you could shut
your eyes and be there."
But as much as "Midsummer
Night's Dream" celebrates the Arb,
this year's production is more a cel-
ebration of the program's 10-year
run. The double-cast show will run
four weekends rather than the nor-
mal three, and the play is, to a great
extent, a re-creation of the first pro-
Gray is joined by a variety of
University alumni, now gradu-
ate students, who acted in previous
Shakespeare in the Arb productions,
including the first "Midsummer
Night's Dream." Mendeloff and Gray
use many of the earthy and Elizabe-
than costumes designed by Roberta
VanderMey 10 years ago. And Mende-
loff kept her approach of using three
actors per cast to play Puck, which
involves more students and lends the
show a spellbinding quality.
"I'm not trying to do a museum
piece," Mendeloff said. "But I think
the people who saw it 10 years ago will
come back and feel very comfortable.
I didn't see the point in tryingto inno-

The "Midsummer" actors perform scenes in eight different parts of the Arb.

"Twelfth Night."
This year's production of "A Mid-
summer's Night Dream," which Men-
deloff staged almost exactly like her
original, utilizes eight locations in the
Arb. The audience of up to 150 people
walks the Arb between each scene.
Although the play begins and ends in
the peony garden, Mendeloff tried to
pick venues that are unusual and mag-
ical - not hard to do at the Arb.
"'Midsummer Night's Dream' is
the perfect play for the Arb because
it's about how people are transformed
by the power of nature," Mendeloff
said. "That's how you feel when you
go to the Arb - you change."

Mendeloff and Production Man-
ager Carol Gray, who has either
acted in or produced nine of the 10
Shakespeare in the Arb productions,
emphasized that nature helps direct
the play.
"What we spend our early rehears-
als doing is going to these places in
the Arb and just exploring, playing,
running up and down hills, climb-
ing trees, finding interesting ways to
work with the material in the setting,"
Mendeloff said.
Both Mendeloff and Gray believe
it's vital to create an environment
for the play, rather than just a stage.
Action occurs all around, with fairies

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