The Illinois Shakespeare Festival presents a music-filled version of A Midsummer Night's Dream this season that turns out to be a bit of a family affair.
The music written specifically for this show was composed by actor Jordan Coughtry, who wrote it originally for a production at the Arkansas Shakespeare Festival. It was there that director Robert Quinlan , who knew of Coughtry's affinity for setting Shakespeare to music, engaged the actor to bring music to Midsummer's enchanting text. Now this production has hit the stage at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and includes not only Coughtry as Puck, but his wife, Nisi Sturgis (Boardwalk Empire) in the roles of Tatania and Hippolyta.
"It's such a magical, fantastic play," said Coughtry. "It involves fairies and spells and so forth. We decided to have the spells and the magic be music. That's where it started and it really blossomed from there."
"It just really sets the scene for all the different worlds," Sturgis explained. "You have the court, you have the forest, you have the world of the fairies. You have all these different things that merge together, and when you have this thread of music throughout, it unifies things and it also helps to get things more specific. It creates a delight that the audience can follow a thread through. One of the songs that begins the show -- it's called the And I Love You Song -- I actually wrote for our son when he was first born. And then Jordan adapted it and added all these other parts with Shakespeare inside it, and now it's this beautiful round that's so joyful and begins the show in this buoyant and personal way."
"Shakespeare's been one of our greatest friends, "Sturgis added with smile. "Throughout our lives, through this art and this strange world of the theater that has been such a home and has brought us some of the best people with whom we could ever hope to share our time, Shakespeare has been this constant of perspective about humanity. There's not situation that can come up in his works and in life that you can't look back to and think that people have been dealing with this stuff for all time. Shakespeare in all his plays really goes in depth with the human psyche and the human heart, and has this great sense of play. It's for all of us to enjoy."
Sturgis and Coughtry agree that their relationship has been strengthened through exploring and performing the works of Shakespeare. And this season, they're sharing their time on stage at the ISF with their three-year old son, Owen. He's playing the little changeling boy in Midsummer.
The play runs in rotation at Ewing Theater in Bloomington June 30 - August 11.
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.