A few days into planning and recording our audio drama, director Daniel Mesta had the thought to add another layer to this production of Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He introduced the connections to New Orleans. Three major connections that I want to touch on are the setting/landscape, ghosts & cemeteries and voodoo & magic.
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,
By pavèd fountain or by rushy brook,
Or in the beachèd margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,
But with thy brawls thou hast disturbed our sport.
Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge have sucked up from the sea
Contagious fogs, which, falling in the land,
Hath every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents.
(Titania Act 2, Scene 1)
New Orleans, LA is in the southern United States at the base of the Mississippi River and on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. It has a very subtropical humid climate and is primarily swampland. However, along with the swampland are beautiful plantations: fields and forests. As you listen to this production, picture the American South, where humankind hasn’t taken over the nature around them but come to live in harmony with it.
Ghosts & Cemeteries
My fairy lord, this must be done with haste,
For night’s swift dragons cut the clouds full fast,
And yonder shines Aurora’s harbinger,
At whose approach, ghosts wand’ring here and there
Troop home to churchyards. Damnèd spirits all,
That in crossways and floods have burial,
Already to their wormy beds are gone.
For fear lest day should look their shames upon,
They willfully themselves exile from light
And must for aye consort with black-browed night.
(Robin Goodfellow Act 3, Scene 2)
New Orleans is one of the most (if not THE most) haunted places in America, from slaves of the nation’s beginnings to yellow fever victims of the 19th century there is no shortage to the amount of souls wandering the cemeteries and graveyards of it’s swamplands. Spirits are among us. In what form, we can’t begin to know or guess. Although comedic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream also has a mist of mystery and hauntings.
Voodoo & Magic
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet muskroses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight.
And there the snake throws her enameled skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.
And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes
And make her full of hateful fantasies.
(Oberon Act 2, Scene 1)
The practice of Voodoo came together at the marriage of religious rituals and practices of the enslaved Africans and the religious beliefs of the local Catholic population in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Practitioners of Voodoo rituals believe that spirits are present in everyday life and can be called upon through dance, music, chanting, etc. They believe that these spirits hold a strong connection with nature, much like the magic practiced by the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
For more information about New Orleans and its culture, visit neworleans.com! What other connections do you find between New Orleans and A Midsummer Night’s Dream? We’d love to hear from you. Comment below or message Samantha Baird – Freelance Theatre Professional on Facebook to share your connections!
DAM Good Productions Presents,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream: An Audio Drama
Exclusively Streaming on samanthabairdfreelance.com Beginning May 18, 2020!