BATAVIA – The beguiling young lovers, fairies and homespun amateur actors who inhabit Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are headed to their latest home under the stars in Batavia. They will ply their joyful mischief in the courtyard of the Batavia Fine Arts Centre from July 22 to Aug. 7.
"This will be the second year," Director Julane Sullivan said of the courtyard venue. "We love it – the actual production value and setting. There’s so many benefits."
An annual classical comedy by the bard originally was mounted along the Fox River at Clark Island starting more than a decade ago.
Sullivan said an overload of sensory sound at the old location occasionally hindered the audience from hearing the actors.
Coming to the rescue in time for last summer's production after a year's hiatus for the project was Dominic Cattero, manager of the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
"Dominic approached me and said he would like to have it in [the] courtyard," Sullivan said. "It's a beautiful facility."
The BFAC sponsors the show, and part of ticket sales go to Shakespeare on Clark at the Centre.
"The space is so lovely," Sullivan said, alluding to welcome amenities for audience members inside the air-conditioned center. "Parking is accessible. You’re comfortable. Chairs are there, and we set up little tables. You can still bring in picnic dinner, but [on the school property] no alcohol."
Having the courtyard space reserved for the production during its entire run lightens logistics considerably for this undaunted band of performers who have put up with a lot over the years to bring Shakespeare to audiences.
"For the actors, it’s so nice we have places to change," Sullivan said of the BFAC. "We don’t have to put up tents."
Having the run of the center means storage space for costumes, along with a sound system and lighting that stay accessible without the need to remove gear and equipment to and from Clark Island.
Cattero said the Batavia Fine Arts Centre, which is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary, has grown to be a cultural hub for the city.
"And we have this wonderful Shakespeare company," he said. "I felt we had the perfect space for them in our courtyard performance space. It just seemed to fit perfectly [as a] welcome addition to what we do in the summer here."
He said the audience reaction to last year's courtyard production was great, and praised the cross-growth advantage, noting, "It got people who had never been to the fine arts center to come, and people who'd never been to see [the Shakespeare troupe] to see them."
Cattero said he remembers the troupe from his student days at Batavia High School.
"They have a long-running tradition of providing great Shakespeare [and] fun entertainment in the summer," he said. "I'm really glad [to have them] at the fine arts center."
And in another example of Batavians networking to nurture the arts, Sullivan, president of the Batavia Arts Council and owner of All Dressed Up Costumes in Batavia, said she's been enjoying acting again in addition to directing. Earlier this month, saw the close of the U.S. premiere of "Out of the Blue," a new Russian work performed at the Organic Theater Company in Chicago, where she played Babuschka. The opportunity was brought to her attention by the show's star, Will Burdin, a Batavia native whom she trained in her youth theater workshop years ago.
With many of the Shakespeare company's favorites returning to roles in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," it will be comfortable territory as audiences are treated to a funny, fast-paced, 90-minute adventure complete with woodland sprites – this time inspired by the Scandinavian roots of the midsummer celebration. The language of Sullivan's adaptation is designed to be accessible to modern audiences ready to laugh.
Characters and cast members
• Titania – Mary Nigohosian, Batavia
• Oberon – Steve Delaney, St. Charles
• Puck – Kasandra Hesek, Warrenville
• Peter (Petra) Quince – Lynn Meredith, Elburn
• Nick Bottom – Craig Gustafson, Lombard
• Starveling – Kathy Bright, Lombard
• Snout – Tyler Haigh, Streamwood
• Snug – Tom Rieser, North Aurora
• Flute – Ben Tennant, Warrenville
• Lysander – Matthew Rosario, Aurora
• Demetrius – Michael Hudetz, Batavia
• Hermia – Elissa Wolf, St. Charles
• Helena – Kylie Edmonds, Wheaton
• Theseus – Matt Heine, Batavia
• Egeus – Bruce Worthall, North Aurora
• Hippolyta – Ally O'Donnell, Batavia
• Fairies – Kate Heart, Ally O'Donnell, Faith NieKamp, Noelle NieKamp
If you go
What: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
When: 7 p.m. July 22, 23, 24, 29, 30 and 31 and Aug. 5, 6 and 7
Where: The outdoor courtyard at the Batavia Fine Arts Centre, 1201 Main St., Batavia (located at Batavia High School)
Cost: $14 ($2 less online)
Info: bataviafineartscentre.org or 630-937-8930