10.21.2011

Jo Stone-Fewings: Theseus/Oberon in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

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After tracking down the cast of Midsummer at The Dirty Duck after their performance the night before, our group was especially excited to continue our discussion with Jo. A Midsummer Night's Dream was one of my favorite plays and Jo's lecture only made me like it more.

Jo started by introducing the Royal Shakespeare Company as The Swan on steroids. A member since 1944, Jo has toured the world with the company. He enjoys being a freelance actor for the ability to travel from a location passing out strawberry daiquiris to one covered with snow. Not a bad variety if you ask me. He also chose the RSC because it is incredibly company-centered, producing good shows and good results. Nancy Meckler is his example of a "dream producer" because of the exemplary way she is able to work with the entire cast as an ensemble. They know each other well so they move quickly without worrying that the show will suffer. It's because of this closeness that Jo is partial to Stratford's main attraction.

Jo also has a love for Stratford-Upon-Avon itself. In reflecting upon Shakespeare himself, Jo admits he loves speaking the bard's words out loud. He imagines Shakespeare as a man of the theater and the country, explaining how he knew the language so fantastically and practically. Jo even told us a story about a brass snake he once saw during a walk in the countryside and his emerging romantic idea that maybe, just maybe, it was the same one Shakespeare saw when he wrote lines in Midsummer about it. That's the magic he feels in the city that gave our famous playwright his own humble beginnings.

It was when he started talking about the play itself that Jo became the most passionate. The Company's decision to cast Theseus and Oberon together is what Jo refers to as the "dream self." Since Shakespeare is a classical script, its movement that needs to be played with for exploration of the text. In the dance in which the transformation actually occurs, Jo felt that it illustrated the piece of himself that must go with the character that is falling in love.

Midsummer is a play about ritual and spirituality. The Indian boy becomes a manifestation of love while the moon seems have an influence greater than even that of Cupid. Oberon's spells add a spiritual element that reflects mythology and nightmares only lead to the realization of the love that exists when one wakes up. Jo considered the blessing bigger than the play, just as Shakespeare's themes override any production details.

Jo finished by commenting on Marc Wooton, who plays Bottom, as a great comedian instead of actor, and Felix Hayes, who plays Shug, as a "complete theater whore." Jo laughed as he mentioned his friendships with the other cast members and I would have to agree that their camaraderie was just as evident the night before as we shared pints just down the street from the theater they call home. How awesome is Stratford?