Review of FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training Production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare; Adapted and Directed by Jen Wineman

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By: Rodger Skidmore

October 2, 2014


A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, Shakespeare is Shakespear is Shakspere. Ms. Stein’s meaning was that “a thing is what it is”, while with Shakespeare it is more “As you like it”.

Traditionally the Shakespeare that one sees in one’s mind’s eye has pointy bearded gents in doublets speaking a lovely English which no one in the audience can comprehend. I remember seeing a great production of Hamlet starring Richard Burton on Broadway back in 1964. A wonderful show with Burton rolling his r’s with his wonderful Welsh accent – I did not understand a word. 

My wife is from North Carolina and one year the Carolina Playmakers UNC – Chapel Hill) took a Shakespeare production up into the mountains where there were enclaves of Scots-Irish who still spoke with an Elizabethan accent, They understood every word and laughed at all the jokes and double-entendre. So much for mountain people being hicks.

But if today one is to get more people involved a slightly different Shakespear has to appear on the stage. Thankfully it did appear at the Cook Theater on October 2nd in Shakspere’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Two reasons that Shakespear was successful back in the day was that, while he had his actors speaking beautiful poetry and prose, he also had the performers in modern dress. That is to say, the modern dress of the time. He did not put everyone into togas or loincloths, just what the protagonists would have worn at the time. A great many British actors have done Shakespeare to great acclaim in the last few decades while dressed in period clothes, they are sometimes called Costume Dramas, a slightly derogatory phrase.

So, we need beautiful words and modern dress. And that is what the Asolo Repertory Theatre delivered. And what was nice was the fact that they spoke clearly and slowly enough for the words to work their way into my brain and be understood – thank you Patricia Delorey. The fact that the acting was also superb was a big plus factor. And did I mention the costumes? The humans had on modern dress while the fairies were delightfully outre.

It would be wonderful to say that this production will be at the Mertz theater for the next few weeks (or months) but it is not the case. This is a touring company made up of third year students of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory For Actor Training. The director, Jen Wineman, put together a very difficult puzzle. She took a full Shakspereian script and whittled it down to 45 minutes. Quite a feat, in that one could still follow the flow of action and get out of the play its main themes – one being, perhaps, that love is what it is, especially if you like it.

Not all performances will be in Sarasota, most of the 45 performances will be in elementary and high schools from Tallahassee to Gainesville and Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. They expect upwards of 12,000 students to be exposed to Shakespeare. Hopefully some will catch the bug.

Can you still see this outstanding New Stages Tour production (which can be appreciated, truly, by all ages from 9 and up) in Sarasota? Yes. tickets may still be available for the Out-Of-Door Academy Lower School Family Day Introductory Workshop on October 11th. Doors open at 1:00 PM, call the Asolo Rep box office at (941) 351-8000 for tickets. On October 23rd the show will be at the the Palmer Ranch – Glenridge Performing Arts Center (941) 552-5325 – South of Clark Road take Honoré Avenue to Palmer Ranch Parkway. Also on November 8th the show will be at the Fogartyville Community Media & Arts Center (941) 894-6469 – 525 Kumquat Court here is Sarasota – just north of Fruitville Road, off N. Lemon Avenue.



Asolo Repertory Theatre Presents
the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training
2014 New Stages Tour: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

(SARASOTA, September 8, 2014) — From September through November 2014, Asolo Repertory Theatre presents the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training New Stages Tour production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This whimsical farce will be directed and adapted by New York City-based theatre/opera director Jen Wineman. There will be a special opening night performance on Thursday, October 2 at 7pm in Asolo Rep’s Cook Theatre.

In Shakespeare’s most beloved romantic comedy, four young lovers just can’t seem to get it together. To escape from prying parents, Hermia and her beloved Lysander run away together. Demetrius, who also loves Hermia, and Helena, who loves Demetrius, secretly join the runaways in one spirited night of mischievous fairies and magical mayhem.

This season’s New Stages Tour has a modern twist. Instead of Ancient Greece as its backdrop, this adaptation is set in a modern-day high school, a pressure-cooker of cliques, outsiders, jealousy, gossip and first love.

“The city of Athens becomes Athens Academy, a prestigious private school Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander all attend. Hippolyta and Theseus rule the school as dean and principal, while the fairies are represented by rebellious teens who would rather hang out in the woods near the academy than go to class,” said director Jen Wineman.  “While Midsummer deals heavily with magic, my hope is that students will be able to connect with the very human experiences the characters are dealing with: unrequited love, parental disapproval, a desire to rebel, and a need for self-expression. As Puck so aptly puts it, ‘Lord, what fools these mortals be!'”

This season marks the fifth annual New Stages Tour, which presents innovative 45-minute adaptations of classic theatrical works to schools and community venues throughout the state of Florida, from Tallahassee to Miami. Last season’s New Stages Tour production of Romeo and Juliet reached more than 14,000 students and community members. New Stages Tour productions are designed to travel, with minimal yet highly imaginative costumes and props. Asolo Rep’s award-winning Education and Outreach Department provides multimedia study guides and other interactive classroom tools and programming to supplement the tour’s school performances. Insightful post-show talkbacks with the performers follow the majority of performances.

“Teachers always want their students to make meaningful, personal connections when they read and analyze literature. Our artists are modeling that very same relationship with Shakespeare each time they interpret a text and bring it to life.” said Kathryn Moroney, Asolo Rep’s education and outreach director. “Many educators in the community requested Midsummer for the New Stages Tour, and we’re thrilled to offer this unique look at a play that is so well known and loved.”

This season, there will also be the first-ever New Stages Tour Family Day outdoor performance on October 11 at 2pm, which will be preceded by a warm-up and introduction to the story, and followed-by a picnic. In the spirit of Shakespeare in the Park, the play will be performed free of charge in the outdoor amphitheater on the Out-of-Door Academy’s Siesta Key campus. The event is recommended for ages 9 and up; capacity is limited and reservations are required through the Asolo Rep Box Office.

The New Stages Tour company is comprised of third-year FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training students. The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, hailed as one the top 10 actor training programs in the country by U.S. News and World Report, is a comprehensive three-year Master of Fine Arts graduate degree program. Each season, thousands of aspiring actors across the country audition for 12 elite spots. During the third year of the program, Conservatory students join Asolo Rep’s professional company of actors to perform in the theatre’s mainstage productions.

“Asolo Rep’s commitment to serving our whole region through inspiring theatre performances extends to our youngest audiences, many of whom experience live theatre for the first time through our New Stages Tour,” said Michael Donald Edwards, producing artistic director of Asolo Rep. “Shakespeare’s timeless stories, our virtuoso ensemble of MFA Conservatory actors, and the education department’s dedicated work with teachers and schools all combine to bring outstanding artistry to the audiences and artists of the future.”

September 25, 2014
Asolo Rep Announces Casting Update in its Presentation of
the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training
2014 New Stages Tour: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

(SARASOTA, September 25, 2014) — In Asolo Rep’s Presentation of the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training New Stages Tour production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Michael Frishman will play the roles of Egeus and Quince, and Jory Murphy will play the roles of Demetrius, Moth and Flute.


(In Alphabetical Order)


Andrea Adnoff
Matt Andersen
Gracie Lee Brown
Michael Frishman
Allie Henkel
Paul Herbig
Jory Murphy
Matthew R. Olsen
Brian Owen
Olivia Williamson

*appearing in alternate performances


Jen Wineman (Director) is a director and choreographer living in New York City. Recent credits include the world premiere of Charise Castro Smith’s play The Hunchback of Seville (Washington Ensemble Theatre, Seattle, WA); the world premiere of Bubble Boy (American Theater Group, Rahway, NJ); the Off Broadway production of F#%king Up Everything (Off Broadway Alliance Best New Musical Nomination); the world premiere of The King’s Whore (Walkerspace, NYC); Donald Margulies’ Shipwrecked! (Triad Stage, Greensboro, NC); and Roller Disco The Musical! (OBERON at the A.R.T, Cambridge, MA), which she co-wrote with Sam Forman and Eli Bolin. Jen most recently directed Fable, a new musical by H.S. Kaufman and Chris Anselmo (NYMF/Signature Theatre, NYC). Next season, she will direct The 39 Steps (Triad Stage, Greensboro, NC) and devise a new play about white culture’s fascination with Hip Hop at PlayMakers Rep with playwright Sarah Gancher. Education/Training: B.A. Vassar College, M.F.A. Yale School of Drama.



Tickets for the Thursday, October 2 opening night performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are $25 and available by calling or visiting the box office (941.351.8000 or 800.361.8388; 5555 N. Tamiami Trail). For more information about Asolo Rep and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, visit

In addition to dozens of school visits, the 2014 New Stages Tour includes several community performances that are open to the public. Please contact each individual venue for ticket information.


October 11 at 1:30pm
Family Day at A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Sarasota, FL)
Outdoor amphitheater on the Out-of-Door Academy’s Lower School campus

Tickets are free but reservations are required; this special family performance includes a pre-show introduction for young audiences (recommended for age 9 and up), and a chance to meet and mingle afterwards.


October 17
Shadow Interpreted Theatre Performance

South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (Culver Bay, FL)

Shadow Interpreted Theater utilizes specially trained American Sign Language (ASL) Interpreters who perform as “shadows” during a live stage production alongside voiced actors. Shadow Actors are integrated into the performance by mirroring A Midsummer Night’s Dream voiced actors, while interpreting the character they are shadowing in ASL. In this way, all audience members can enjoy the full richness of the theater experience rather than having to watch a single interpreter located off stage, and thereby missing much of the action taking place on stage. This is a cutting-edge arts offering that makes the arts accessible, genuine and fully enriching for all audiences.


October 23
Glenridge Performing Arts Center (Sarasota, FL)

November 5
Florida Theatre Conference at Santa Fe College (Gainesville, FL)

November 8
Fogartyville Community Media & Arts Center (Sarasota, FL)

Current as of 9/8/14; for current listings please visit:



The New Stages Tour is sponsored in part by:
Asolo Repertory Theatre Guild; Cordelia Lee Beattie Foundation; Linnie E. Dalbeck Memorial Foundation Trust; Mandell and Madeleine Berman Foundation; Andrew R. Ferrell Foundation; Harold C. and Jacqueline F. Bladel Foundation; Plantation Community Foundation.

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