Submission Title

Unrealized Costume Designs for A Midsummer Night's Dream

Location

Jereld R. Nicholson Library

Subject Area

Theatre Arts

Description

The setting is Upper Manhattan and Lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village, specifically) in the early twentieth century. The mortal characters are urban socialites of Uptown—high class city dwellers without a care in the world or a blemish on their appearance—but when Egeus enforces the patriarchal oppression that women of this time are trying so hard to exterminate, Hermia (Egeus’ daughter) chooses to flee his authority. She and her lover, Lysander, retreat to Lower Manhattan, an area contrary to the refined and sophisticated atmosphere of Uptown, and the home of the bohemians (the fairies). Between the exotic culture of the Village, the rallying lower-class workers who practice theatre to subvert notions of their inability to appreciate art, and the naïve recklessness (or perhaps adventurousness) of the young lovers, this interpretation seeks to draw out social commentary on the interrelationships between urban socialites, bohemian artists, and working class people during the early twentieth century.

The issues of identity and love within Midsummer were important to me and led me toward a concept that would emphasize what I interpret the characters’ identities are. For example, the lovers are simply the lovers—we do not know them by any interest, trade, or identifier other than who they love. Accordingly, they become metropolitan socialites with nothing to do other than indulge. This also gives Theseus, a duke in the play, the room to be a government official of sorts for the state of New York.

Along these lines, the fairies are the ones who control the romantic escapades of the play, so I chose to interpret them as a progressive, liberal, and bohemian kind of people. I referenced art nouveau artistic styles of the time, as well as symbolism in Egyptian jewelry to incorporate a worldly, exotic, and eclectic vibe for their appearance. The Greenwich Village setting also makes them a strong contrast to the mortals.

Finally, I interpret the mechanicals as laborers in New York at a time where social justice for workers was becoming more important. I imagine immigrant and impoverished workers who have families living in tenements, fighting for unions and better working conditions in an increasingly industrialized world—and amid this adversity, they come together to perform a play, showing that although they are unskilled, uneducated, and/or lower class, they at least have an interest in culture. They are not solely identified by their work, but also by their pursuit of art.

I think this concept will not only emphasize the characterization of each character and group of characters, but it also highlights the interrelationships between individuals and groups. The contrast between the mortals (socialites), fairies (gypsies), and mechanicals (laborers) is not only a prominent topic for early twentieth-century New York, but also for today, and even in Shakespeare’s time.

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Unrealized Costume Designs for A Midsummer Night's Dream

Jereld R. Nicholson Library

The setting is Upper Manhattan and Lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village, specifically) in the early twentieth century. The mortal characters are urban socialites of Uptown—high class city dwellers without a care in the world or a blemish on their appearance—but when Egeus enforces the patriarchal oppression that women of this time are trying so hard to exterminate, Hermia (Egeus’ daughter) chooses to flee his authority. She and her lover, Lysander, retreat to Lower Manhattan, an area contrary to the refined and sophisticated atmosphere of Uptown, and the home of the bohemians (the fairies). Between the exotic culture of the Village, the rallying lower-class workers who practice theatre to subvert notions of their inability to appreciate art, and the naïve recklessness (or perhaps adventurousness) of the young lovers, this interpretation seeks to draw out social commentary on the interrelationships between urban socialites, bohemian artists, and working class people during the early twentieth century.

The issues of identity and love within Midsummer were important to me and led me toward a concept that would emphasize what I interpret the characters’ identities are. For example, the lovers are simply the lovers—we do not know them by any interest, trade, or identifier other than who they love. Accordingly, they become metropolitan socialites with nothing to do other than indulge. This also gives Theseus, a duke in the play, the room to be a government official of sorts for the state of New York.

Along these lines, the fairies are the ones who control the romantic escapades of the play, so I chose to interpret them as a progressive, liberal, and bohemian kind of people. I referenced art nouveau artistic styles of the time, as well as symbolism in Egyptian jewelry to incorporate a worldly, exotic, and eclectic vibe for their appearance. The Greenwich Village setting also makes them a strong contrast to the mortals.

Finally, I interpret the mechanicals as laborers in New York at a time where social justice for workers was becoming more important. I imagine immigrant and impoverished workers who have families living in tenements, fighting for unions and better working conditions in an increasingly industrialized world—and amid this adversity, they come together to perform a play, showing that although they are unskilled, uneducated, and/or lower class, they at least have an interest in culture. They are not solely identified by their work, but also by their pursuit of art.

I think this concept will not only emphasize the characterization of each character and group of characters, but it also highlights the interrelationships between individuals and groups. The contrast between the mortals (socialites), fairies (gypsies), and mechanicals (laborers) is not only a prominent topic for early twentieth-century New York, but also for today, and even in Shakespeare’s time.