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Shakespeare Chattanooga goes full redneck with latest performance

Authored By seanphippster

Yee-haw, merry wanderers of the night!

Shakespeare Chattanooga has partnered with recently revived Ripple Theater to present Williams Shakespeare’s hysterical “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”-set in Athens, Georgia.

“Midsummer Night’s (Georgia) Dream” features the familiar lovers, fairies, rude mechanicals and courtesans as if they were taking place in the Southern, albeit progressive, city. The performance will also include music from famous Athens bands.

Six shows will take place over consecutive weekends, beginning this Friday, June 20 at 7:30 p.m. Click here for more information.

Janis Hashe is the producing director of Shakespeare Chattanooga. This marks the first time the company has attempted a “redneck” version of a Shakespearean comedy.

“We were thinking: Shakespeare sets his plays in all of these different places, but they’re never really where they’re supposed to be,” she said. “Stephanie Smith (Puck), who has been in every one of our productions, came up with the idea.”

This version features the lovers as University of Georgia students, the court becomes more of a Southern courthouse, and the rude mechanicals-the players in the “play within a play”-are straight out of the wild Georgia backcountry.

Puck (AKA Robin Goodfellow) will be portrayed as a “disco diva dragonfly,” according to Hashe. 

Steve Disbrow portrays Nick Bottom, the leader of the rude mechanicals. Disbrow has performed in every Shakespeare Chattanooga production.

He said that although Hashe is a stickler for the text, she has given the mechanicals the green light to improvise much of the play within a play. The improvised bits will depend upon the audience each night.

“On one hand, with Shakespeare, you’ve got to walk a fine line 400 years later,” Disbrow said. “You’ve got people who want to feel as if they’ve been transported back to Elizabethan England and could catch the plague at any moment, that kind of vibe. But others go to the show just to laugh. With comedy, you really have to be able to give them something to relate to and twist it someway to make it funny.”

The collaboration with Ripple Theater is not a permanent endeavor, according to Hashe. However, she is excited about performing at the newly remodeled Brainerd theater.

“They’re fabulous, but they are also a faith-based organization,” she said. “Shakespeare Chattanooga is not … It’s a very successful partnership, but we’re not going to be doing Jesus.”

This run of performances will mark the grand reopening of Ripple Theater after years of darkness following extensive flood damage. 

Ripple Theater plans to offer four productions in the coming year.