When the first act of Blessed Unrest’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream ended with a spirited interpretative dance to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, it became evident that this was not my mother’s interpretation of William Shakespeare. But in truth, the signs were already there. From the first scene of the play, the physicality in which the actors approached the material changed my perception of this play. Instead of focusing on the dialogue, I was more interested in the emotions of the characters brilliantly displayed by the actors. The almost clichéd idea of loving someone that doesn’t return your love and the trickery one might devise to change that situation spells for a bad romance indeed.
Blessed Unrest is a non-profit experimental theatre company that has been generating original work since 1999. Director Jessica Burr has been running the company for nine years. “What really grabs me about this story is the love relationships,” Jessica states about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “So we worked a lot [the relationships] to find the heart of them. Often times they are glossed over, but we really wanted to get to the meat of it and make it very real and very passionate.”
This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream definitely has passion. In fact, it is all heart, soul and fluid movement. “As a company we train every month in physical theater. I like to see bodies moving. It’s just pleasing,” Jessica explains as she smiles. The actors seamlessly weaved through the production playing multiple characters. The authenticity in which they approach each character led me to believe the cast took a class in multiple personality syndrome. Another enjoyable aspect was the transition of Lysander, played by Stephen Drabicki, to a hearing impaired young man and the company’s incorporation of sign language into the script. It added another layer to an already intricate story.
At the core of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are the themes of love and obsession which makes it perfect for a non-profit troupe like Blessed Unrest. It could be said that art and the business of entertainment is a bad romance. So often artists remain in the theater because they are in love or even obsessed by what they do. Unfortunately as much as the arts are coveted in this country, our government doesn’t provide the financial support to the arts as other countries. It is sad to think that in a city as creative as Manhattan that an artist simply cannot live as an artist and have their craft be their only occupation. The love of breathing life into new and classic material is inherent with the members of Blessed Unrest, many of whom were in attendance on the opening night lending their support in the audience and various off-stage roles. “There’s something to be said for obstacles and challenges, and I really do think it makes us stronger and makes us more creative because we have to find ways to make money,” Jessica says.
Blessed Unrest’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be playing at The Interart Theatre, 500 West 52nd Street, until April 12. Blessed Unrest claims to be theatre for the adventurous, and their declaration did not disappoint. Also, with ticket prices set at $15, it is a journey that is affordable for every New Yorker. FAMERS I suggest an evening frolicking in Shakespeare’s magical woods with this innovative company. I found it to be a dream that is hard to forget.
To learn more visit www.blessedunrest.org.