Apr 26, 2014

Midsummer Night's Dream on Stage

You probably thought that only the ballet versions of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream featured significant beefcake or gay subtexts.

Not by a long shot.

The original play is rather subtle in its depictions of same-sex desire, but modern stage versions have no qualms with Lysander-Demetrius and Helena-Hermia pairings, or exploring the attraction between Puck and Oberon, as in this version staged at the Globe Theater (played by Matthew Tennyson and John Light).

Or this musical version staged in Santa Cruz, California, with Aldo Billingslea as Oberon and J. Todd Adams as a rather muscular Puck.

And costume managers must be happy: in modern stagings, Theseus, Lysander, Demetrius, and Oberon are usually cast with musclemen who don't own shirts. Here Tony Onwumere shows off his pecs as Oberon at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, Minnesota.

Meanwhile Puck orchestrates the events, creating and eliminating desire, whether its object is male, female, male with ass's head, or shapeshifting androgynous being.  Sometimes his presentation is comical (the play is supposed to be funny, after all).  Left: Trevor Van Houten as a green-skinned, carrot-top Puck at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham,Washington).

But in spite of (or because of) the humor, Puck is always the Lord of Misrule, flamboyant, androgynous, magical, manipulative, demonstrating again and again what fools we mortals be.

See also: Midsummer Night's Dream: The Ballets, and Shakespeare, the Original Gay Playwright.

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