Midwestern audiences will discover Shakespeare’s comedic spectacle, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as Stone Soup Shakespeare presents its madcap, mischievous and free-to-the-public production.  With a focus on the character Bottom, this production poses the question: what stories that we are seeing are real, and what are just a dream?

The 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18, performance combines skilled Shakespearian acting with live music, a pillow fort, and a few optional interactive moments to create an enchanting, family friendly telling of this Shakespeare classic, a news release says.

This is the first time Stone Soup Shakespeare will be touring a production they have already toured. The first time they presented “Midsummer” was in 2012, the release says.

“The choice to return to this story was a combination of artistic dreams, Bottom’s dreams, and the need for some silliness even as we in communities reflect on so many returns and changes these past few years have brought,” a news release says.

Tour Director Christina Casano says she is eager to make audiences smile. Casano has crafted a production that includes five actors playing 16 characters. Casano has staged the play in an alley style, placing the audience on other side of the action as if they were in the wings of the stage, watching the action, and being caught up in it as well. The dream world nods to pillow forts and children’s toys that start simplistic and drab, but gain color and intricacies as the dream itself grows more complicated.

“We relish in playing pretend; creating something out of nothing, and as we use our imagination to bring the world to life, we hope we are encouraging our audience to do the same,” said Julia Stemper, artistic director for Stone Soup Shakespeare.  “As a general rule we try to include the audience in our productions and make them an essential part of the story. Throughout the show we have moments for our audience to participate if they want to.  As an outdoor production, the play isn’t just on a single stage, but it is the entire world around us.”

The world the ensemble has created has three distinct feels: the Everyman world where we begin as we meet Bottom and the other “Rude Mechanicals,” the lovers world where we see youthful Athenians plotting trysts and trying to break them up as well, and the fairy world that includes magical hijinks. Casano and cast were aided in finding these worlds by costume designer Carina Lastimosa, who uses color to give each world a separate feel.

Keeping in the spirit of the story of Stone Soup, at all performances encourage audience members to bring non-perishable food items that the performers will collect and take to local food banks. The company also encourage audiences to bring their own picnics to share with their friends during the evening of entertainment. “Keeping in the spirit of dreaming, this year we also encourage audiences to come in pajamas if they wish,” the release says.

Admittance is free, but donations to Stone Soup are gratefully accepted!

STONE SOUP SHAKESPEARE

Stone Soup Shakespeare was founded by Jeffrey Golde and Julia Stemper in 2010.  Its mission is to bring free professional theater to areas without access to it. Developed during Stemper’s time studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and drama, the company continues to present theater events in both the US and UK. Stone Soup’s first tour was a production of “Romeo and Juliet” in 2011.  It was seen in three states during a one-week tour and included professional actors from England, Scotland, New York, Chicago and the Southern Illinois region who have appeared off-Broadway, regionally and on national and international tours. 

The company is also committed to theater education running workshops and classes for adults and students.

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Southern Arts Fund, a program of ArtSpace 304, and the Illinois Arts Council Agency made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts.