‘MidSummer; Kinda?’ Debuts at Suffolk

The Theatre Department brings a modern-day Shakespeare to the stage
Students perform onstage during midSummer Kinda surrounded by colorful umbrellas
Set on a college campus, MidSummer; Kinda? explores timeless themes like love, along with tackling modern-day issues such as global warming. Due to climate change, the ‘trees’ at the train station in MidSummer; Kinda? have taken on magical properties that appear to be having a strange effect on passersby. (photography courtesy of Nile Scott Studios)

What happens when theater faculty and students put a contemporary spin on one of Shakespeare’s most iconic comedies? 

Suffolk’s answer: MidSummer; Kinda?

Plans for modernizing the work began late last spring when visiting artist and professor of practice Pascale Florestal met with Suffolk students to discuss their fall show. “I was really interested in exploring A Midsummer Night’s Dream using today’s lens,” says Florestal. 

MidSummer; Kinda? is playing at the Modern Theatre November 16-19 with a cast of 21 student actors.

Set in a college theater department, the play now follows faculty members as they prepare for the inauguration of the new college president. The lovers and fairies from MidSummer are represented by different groups of students.

Helping keep the inauguration on task is the responsibility of theatre major Katharine Carvalho, Class of 2025. Carvalho portrays technical stage manager Parker, whose job it is to ensure the presidential ceremony goes smoothly. Carvalho has relished working on MidSummer, especially with Florestal.

“I really enjoy the way that she directs,” she says. “She keeps it fast paced, but she’s also really good at collaborating with everyone. If I have a suggestion or a question or anything I want to discuss with her, she is very present and open, even if it’s not something that she necessarily agrees with.”

Florestal is education director and an associate producer with Front Porch Arts Collective, a Black theater company committed to advancing racial equity in Boston. Newly appointed as visiting guest artist and professor of practice at Suffolk this fall, she is excited to make her department directorial debut. 

Green background and logo text reading "Midsummer; Kinda?" with a red-capped mushroom

Midsummer; Kinda?

Transcript 00:00:00:00 - 00:00:41:08
The show is about being young and understanding who you are. I was inspired by Fat Ham and Ten Things I Hate About You. And She's the Man and this way of taking Shakespeare and modernizing it and also making it more relatable. And so I set it in a college where I feel as I'm teaching at a college and understanding what it means to come back to that time, what it's like to be young and to figure out who you are in a place that's meant for that, for you in that moment, as in midsummer.

00:00:41:10 - 00:01:04:15
The big thing is Hippolyta and Theseus are getting married, and that's why the mechanicals are doing this play and everyone is getting all excited. And I was trying to figure out what is the thing in a college setting that joins or creates some kind of union that changes the course of time. And then I got this gig of associate directing this inauguration for the new president of Harvard.

00:01:04:20 - 00:01:29:06
And I was like, Oh my God, is this an inauguration of a new president? Because I remember being in college and when there were new faculty coming in or even a new president coming in, it was a big deal. And I thought that would be the perfect way to connect this whole story together. The kinda is there is still some parts of it that remind us of the classic midsummer play, but there's so many of it that isn't.

00:01:29:09 - 00:01:46:23
So I think I was really trying to play with what are the things that are still midsummer that aren't still midsummer, So people who love Shakespeare will see it and maybe people who are a little bit adverse to Shakespeare are afraid of it. Maybe like, Oh, that's what it's about. Or at least that's what it could be about.

00:01:47:01 - 00:02:11:10
Not as for me, like this is the first play that I've written and directed at the same time. So it's really been a lot of like understanding what the story is that I want to say. And also what the students are interested in. This show has been unlike any other of topic in that it's very collaborative. Like past school is really down for us to find our characters ourselves and to experiment.

00:02:11:12 - 00:02:33:02
It was really interesting to see how much our input actually had an impact on the show and how much it was valued that we had an opinion or thoughts or ideas and creativity to go into it. What about Mike? Is this the biggest cast I've worked with in a long time? And they're all so different, and I think that was something I really wanted to showcase.

00:02:33:02 - 00:03:00:16
So many of the characters are trying to show us the different people that we experience not only in college but in our daily lives. I think my big goals of this show is creating Shakespeare in a way that we all can see ourselves in and also making it more fun and just making it today. And I also wanted to really clear it up and sometimes we have this idea of what we want, of what our life is supposed to look like.

00:03:00:17 - 00:03:26:07
But then the world says, actually, you need something else, but I'm going to test you on it and challenge you on it, and it's going to make you work for it. And then you realize, Oh, that is what I really needed in my life. Not the thing that I thought was what I actually wanted. I think that's a hard thing to learn when you're young and when you have this idea of who you are and what you want to be in the world, then you know, the world teaches you who you have to be.

00:03:26:09 - 00:03:42:23
And I think that's what I hope people learn from the show, looking away and hopefully they look at themselves like, okay, I'm in this place now where I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. Even if it felt like I wasn't meant to be there.
“There’s always this allure to Shakespeare… and I think the language is something that makes people really nervous or makes them really interested in tackling it. I’m really excited for us to embrace the themes of the story and tackle the things that might be kind of scary for us.” 
Pascale Florestal Visiting Guest Artist and Professor of Practice

Almost like a ‘rom com’

Rose Beardmore, Class of 2024, is a theatre and English literature major taking on dual assignments as the dramaturg and assistant director. She fell in love with Shakespeare during a semester abroad in London in 2022 and prior work as a Commonwealth Shakespeare Company (CSC) apprentice. 

Beardmore describes her directing and performance style as “very melodramatic, some would say comedic, and ultimately youthful” and sees a lot of the same elements in Florestal’s adaptation.

“It’s almost like a ‘rom com.’ I think that the whimsy of MidSummer translates very effectively into this college environment where everyone’s just kind of trying to fall in love and to experience life to its fullest. I could definitely see somebody sitting down in a movie theater and eating their popcorn to watch this version, but this is so much better than a movie theater because we get to see the actors live and in person.”

Beardmore’s research involved assembling and presenting a summary of Midsummer Night’s Dream to the cast. She was able to draw parallels between the original characters and the ones in Florestal’s adaptation while conducting research into the play’s conventions.

She says working with Florestal is “absolutely incredible. She’s a highly collaborative artist, so whenever there’s a moment where she’s kind of stepping back from the process, she’s been very open to me stepping forward and taking a note here and there and applying it to the actors.”

Students perform onstage during MidSummer Kinda
Students are overflowing with excitement about MidSummer; Kinda? and can’t wait to share this contemporary twist on a classic Shakespeare play with the community. The plot may feel Shakespearean, but the language is definitely not which was important to Florestal who wanted the production readily accessible for modern-day audiences. (photography courtesy of Nile Scott Studios)

Unpacking Shakespeare

Carvalho adds that part of the contemporary twist is incorporating modern gender representation.

“There’s a range of gender identities and sexual orientations that are discussed and represented and that was a big thing for Pascale and the whole production team and cast,” says Carvalho. “When you think of classic works you think of a box that things have to get shoved into, and we’re sort of unpacking that.”

Beardmore agrees. “It’s a highly accessible version of Shakespeare that honestly doesn’t feel Shakespearean at all. And that is the whole point. It’s not elite. It’s just very humble and down to earth. It takes place at a college, but that’s as classist as it gets.”

The creative team for MidSummer; Kinda? includes Lighting Designer Amanda Fallon; Scenic Designer Ryan Bates; Costume Designer Chelsea Kerl; Sound Designer James Cannon; and Properties Designer Elektra T. Newman, BS ’18.

About the production

The Suffolk Theatre Department production of MidSummer; Kinda? is an adapted work of William Shakespeare written and directed by Visiting Artist/Professor of Practice Pascale Florestal. The show runs November 16-19 at Suffolk’s Modern Theatre, 525 Washington Street, Boston. For tickets, visit www.tinyurl.com/MidSummerSU.

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Greg Gatlin
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