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‘Midsummer’ magic

Cleverly staged production transports action to the 1940s



A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare, Amelia Pedlow, Hermia, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington Blade, gay news

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Through Dec. 30

Shakespeare Theatre Company

Sidney Harman Hall

610 F Street NW



A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare, Amelia Pedlow, Hermia, Christiana Clark, Helena, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington Blade, gay news

Christiana Clark as Helena and Amelia Pedlow as Hermia in Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy of Shakespeare Theatre Company)

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” brings together fairies, high-born Athenians and a sextet of skilled workmen with theatrical aspirations to create an improbable but magical world where even the most extreme situations end happily. In a visually exciting and extremely fun production currently playing at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Sidney Harman Hall, director Ethan McSweeny keeps the old material fresh.

McSweeny’s take is appropriately magic-filled and newly theatrical. He sets the story in the 1940s inside an empty theater where possibilities are boundless. After all, as the program points out, Shakespeare premiered this play on a bare stage. With two balconies, a couple chandeliers, fly ropes, trap doors, Lee Savage’s beautiful set — a once grand theater — is essentially a blank slate, allowing the action to move convincingly (with the help of Tyler Micoleau’s skilled lighting) from Athens to an enchanted forest.

Cast members are equally versatile. Tim Cambell and Sara Topham appealingly play the comely ruling couple Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, as well as Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies. Adam Green splendidly transforms from Theseus’ oddly buttoned up assistant to literature’s mischief maker extraordinaire, Puck. Dressed in a corset and breeches, Green’s agile fairy nimbly traverses the set delighting in the mayhem he initiates without ever being too cutesy or grating. It’s a terrific performance.

“Dream” is a comic tale of young love, both requited and not. Hermia (Amelia Pedlow) cannot bear Demetrius (Chris Myers), the preppy boy her father insists she must marry. Instead she loves Lysander (Robert Beitzel), a folksy poet who is never without his acoustic guitar. Hermia’s best friend Helena (the excellent Christiana Clark), whose taste runs toward shopping and chocolates, loves Demetrius; but alas Demetrius loves Hermia. In order escape her father’s commands, Hermia and Lysander retreat to the woods.

Along the way, before all ends well, Hermia and Helena, clad only in their underthings, fall into a long, drawn out cat fight (staged wet and goopy by McSweeny). The boys (also stripped to their skivvies) get involved too. Puck watches from the sidelines perched in a theater balcony nibbling on popcorn. Invisible to the young lovers, he descends into the fray, cleverly egging on the battle. It’s a wonderfully well-rehearsed scene that comes off without a hitch.

“Dream’s” amusing subplot focuses on the rude mechanicals, a group of workers including a tinker and a tailor who are keen to perform a work of their own making (Shakespeare’s enduring slapstick-filled skit within the play) for the Duke and Queen. Led by Ted van Griethuysen as Peter Quince, the group of avid amateur thespians includes Robin Starveling (Christopher Bloch), Tom Snout (a dour Herschel Sparber), the slowwitted Snug (Robert Dorfman) and the wonderful David Graham Jones as Francis Flute who plays the mechanical’s enthusiastic ingénue. The group’s most eager member, Nick Bottom, is hilariously played by Bruce Dow as a total drama queen, more than ready for his close up.

McSweeney’s imagery is unforgettable: The show strikingly opens with the Duke (covered in medals) and his first lady (looking more than a little Evita-ish with a chic hat and carefully arranged fur piece), addressing their drab public from the palace balcony. There is the moving tableau featuring an ardent Titania and her disinterested paramour Bottom (who has been magically made into an ass) being pulled across stage by a team of young fairies as they lie in the gutted piano that serves as their bed. Then at the play’s close, there’s Puck making his apologies to the audience lit by the glow of a lone ghost light.

Jennifer Moeller provides a collection of impeccably realized costumes from the 1940s suits and gowns worn by the Athenians to Oberon and Titania’s romantic frayed remnants of court finery. And the fairies’ costumes: vintage foundation garments topped with odds and ends culled from an abandoned backstage.

With its classic storyline, inventive staging and delightful cast that handles the language and comedy more than ably, Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” makes perfect holiday fare both for Bard aficionados and the uninitiated alike.



PHOTOS: Night of Champions

Team DC holds annual awards gala



Team DC President Miguel Ayala speaks at the 2024 Night of Champions Awards on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Team DC, the umbrella organization for LGBTQ-friendly sports teams and leagues in the D.C. area, held its annual Night of Champions Awards Gala on Saturday, April 20 at the Hilton National Mall. The organization gave out scholarships to area LGBTQ student athletes as well as awards to the Different Drummers, Kelly Laczko of Duplex Diner, Stacy Smith of the Edmund Burke School, Bryan Frank of Triout, JC Adams of DCG Basketball and the DC Gay Flag Football League.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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PHOTOS: National Cannabis Festival

Annual event draws thousands to RFK



Growers show their strains at The National Cannabis Festival on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The 2024 National Cannabis Festival was held at the Fields at RFK Stadium on April 19-20.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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‘Amm(i)gone’ explores family, queerness, and faith

A ‘fully autobiographical’ work from out artist Adil Mansoor



Adil Mansoor in ‘Amm(i)gone’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. (Photo by Kitoko Chargois)

Thorough May 12
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D St., N.W. 

“Fully and utterly autobiographical.” That’s how Adil Mansoor describes “Amm(i)gone,” his one-man work currently playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. 

Both created and performed by out artist Mansoor, it’s his story about inviting his Pakistani mother to translate Sophocles’s Greek tragedy “Antigone” into Urdu. Throughout the journey, there’s an exploration of family, queerness, and faith,as well as references to teachings from the Quran, and audio conversations with his Muslim mother. 

Mansoor, 38, grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and is now based in Pittsburgh where he’s a busy theater maker. He’s also the founding member of Pittsburgh’s Hatch Arts Collective and the former artistic director of Dreams of Hope, an LGBTQ youth arts organization.

WASHINGTON BLADE: What spurred you to create “Amm(i)gone”? 

ADIL MANSOOR: I was reading a translation of “Antigone” a few years back and found myself emotionally overwhelmed. A Theban princess buries her brother knowing it will cost her, her own life. It’s about a person for whom all aspirations are in the afterlife. And what does that do to the living when all of your hopes and dreams have to be reserved for the afterlife?

I found grant funding to pay my mom to do the translation. I wanted to engage in learning. I wanted to share theater but especially this ancient tragedy. My mother appreciated the characters were struggling between loving one another and their beliefs. 

BLADE: Are you more director than actor?

MANSOOR: I’m primarily a director with an MFA in directing from Carnegie Mellon. I wrote, directed, and performed in this show, and had been working on it for four years. I’ve done different versions including Zoom. Woolly’s is a new production with the same team who’ve been involved since the beginning. 

I love solo performance. I’ve produced and now teach solo performance and believe in its power. And I definitely lean toward “performance” and I haven’t “acted” since I was in college. I feel good on stage. I was a tour guide and do a lot of public speaking. I enjoy the attention. 

BLADE: Describe your mom. 

MANSOOR: My mom is a wonderfully devout Muslim, single mother, social worker who discovered my queerness on Google. And she prays for me. 

She and I are similar, the way we look at things, the way we laugh. But different too. And those are among the questions I ask in this show. Our relationship is both beautiful and complicated.

BLADE: So, you weren’t exactly hiding your sexuality? 

MANSOOR: In my mid-20s, I took time to talk with friends about our being queer with relation to our careers. My sexuality is essential to the work. As the artistic director at Dreams of Hope, part of the work was to model what it means to be public. If I’m in a room with queer and trans teenagers, part of what I’m doing is modeling queer adulthood. The way they see me in the world is part of what I’m putting out there. And I want that to be expansive and full. 

So much of my work involves fundraising and being a face in schools. Being out is about making safe space for queer young folks.

BLADE: Have you encountered much Islamophobia? 

MANSOOR: When 9/11 happened, I was a sophomore in high school, so yes. I faced a lot then and now. I’ve been egged on the street in the last four months. I see it in the classroom. It shows up in all sorts of ways. 

BLADE: What prompted you to lead your creative life in Pittsburgh? 

MANSOOR: I’ve been here for 14 years. I breathe with ease in Pittsburgh. The hills and the valleys and the rust of the city do something to me. It’s beautiful, it’ affordable, and there is support for local artists. There’s a lot of opportunity. 

Still, the plan was to move to New York in September of 2020 but that was cancelled. Then the pandemic showed me that I could live in Pittsburgh and still have a nationally viable career. 

BLADE: What are you trying to achieve with “Amm(i)gone”? 

MANSOOR: What I’m sharing in the show is so very specific but I hear people from other backgrounds say I totally see my mom in that. My partner is Catholic and we share so much in relation to this. 

 I hope the work is embracing the fullness of queerness and how means so many things. And I hope the show makes audiences want to call their parents or squeeze their partners.

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