A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of William Shakespeare's most popular comedies. It's a play about love, compulsion, and magic. Midsummer is set in ancient Athens during the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. Four lovers flee into the woods, where Oberon and Titania (the fairy King and Queen) argue over a mortal servant boy. Oberon sends his mischief-maker Puck loose with a flower which causes people to fall in love. When a crew of players rehearse near Titania's bower, she awakens and falls in love with Nick Bottom, a weaver-turned-actor-turned-donkey. Oberon obtains the mortal boy, sorts out the lovers, and puts everything as it should be -- followed by a royal wedding, and a royally botched play-within-a-play -- all upon a midsummer night.
But every Summer must have a Winter...
Ages since that summer night, the English woods have been besieged by iron-sided progress -- but ancient fairy magic still endures. When Gwen receives a gift from the otherworld, she must come to grips with the secret it brings. But while Oberon and Titania debate her fate, a band of amateur players try to rekindle their own holiday spirit in the shadow of the Great War.
The idea for A Midwinter Night's Revel originally came to me in 2009 while I was working on S Gunter Klaus & The Story Before with Jon Ferguson. As I was doing research on the pagan folk origins of Santa Claus, I suddenly had this image of Oberon and Titania in the snow, against the backdrop of the First World War.
In December 2011, I traveled to England on a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant to study traditional early Christmas performances and rituals, including Stonehenge at solstice, a parade in Brighton, mummers in Yorkshire, and Panto in London. I was particularly inspired by Mummers Plays -- seasonal British folk plays performed by troupes of amateur actors. These plays are typically staged as house-to-house visits and in local pubs, much as carolers do today.
Three years (and a lot of life changes) later, I've channeled those experiences into this play. Much like A Midsummer Night's Dream, this play deals with the immortal fairies Oberon, Titania, and Puck - along with their young Changeling Boy - and takes place over a couple days at the turning of the seasons. But in crafting this conceptual continuation of one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, I also borrowed thematic elements from Shakespeare's late Romances (especially The Tempest) to tell a story love, acceptance, self-discovery and family appropriate for those who need some light at the darkest time of year. I hope you enjoy it.
- John Heimbuch, playwright