Marti Maraden: notes from Dream director – curious arts

To experience the work of one of Canada’s most sought-after directors, right here at U of A Studio Theatre, that’s as good a reason as any to go see a play.

Photographed in our Toronto studio on Saturday February 23, 2008

Marti Maraden.

When it happens to be veteran director Marti Maraden at the helm of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Bard’s playful ode to the transformative power of love, that makes it reason 11/50 in our Go See a Play series!

Marti Maraden’s impact on the national theatre scene is immense, with acting and directing credits of distinction at the Stratford Festival (18 seasons) and at the Shaw Festival (seven seasons), as artistic director of the National Arts Centre English Theatre in Ottawa (1997-2005), and as one of the initiators of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival.

Read on for Marti Maraden’s guest director notes. There is no better cure for mid-winter blahs than to slip off your parka and settle into the Timms Centre for the Arts, Feb. 4 – 13, 2016, for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Director’s Notes
by Marti Maraden
2016 Mary Mooney Distinguished Visiting Artist

Not long ago I read about a study in which brain scans were done of people in love. The scientists conducting the study concluded that love in its early stages exhibits symptoms very similar to those of madness. This finding would fit neatly into the argument of Theseus, Duke of Athens, at the beginning of Act V in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends…
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy:
Or, in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!

But Theseus’ pragmatic, daylight dismissal of fantasy and imagination is challenged earlier in the play by the “deep midnight” of the wood outside Athens in which there are not only beasts of prey but fairies and hobgoblins, too. Things happen to characters who go into woods (or on sea voyages) in Shakespeare’s plays, and not all are benign. Confusions abound and nightmares occur.  But, if good fortune prevails, those who have lost themselves become whole again and lives are transformed.

Many before me have noted that the subconscious dominates the wood of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is clearly evident in the journey of the play’s young lovers whose sometimes outrageous conduct in the forest far exceeds the conventions of their everyday world. Though Theseus doubts the validity of their remembered dreams, all of them have been affected  and, to varying extents, altered by their experience. In a production like ours in which many roles are doubled, there are even more opportunities for a journey into the subconscious. The frequently doubled roles of Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania echo each other in fascinating ways.  Are there still lingering doubts in the about-to-be-wed mortals that play out in the reckless passion of the fairy King and Queen?

Another bit of science: ever since childhood adventures raising monarch butterflies, I have been fascinated by metamorphosis.

Shakespeare invented the word “metamorphose” in The Two Gentlemen of Verona to express the effects of love on the young. The word is even more apt in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in which not only are the lovers transformed, but more literally, Puck, a shape-changer if there ever was one, tells us he has appeared as everything from a filly foal to a crabapple.  And Nick Bottom is “translated” to an ass before our very eyes!

Theatre is inherently an act of metamorphosis, and we hope that you will enjoy watching these gifted young actors “metamorphose.” It has been a joy for me to witness their transformation.

Feature image illustration by Alexa Guse (’15 B Des).

Presenter: U of A Studio Theatre
Event Title: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
Dates: Feb. 4 – 13, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.
Matinee Thursday, Feb. 11  at 12:30 p.m.
$5 preview performance on Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
No show on Sunday, Feb. 7
Venue: Timms Centre for the Arts, University of Alberta
Single show tickets: $12 student, $25 adult, $22 senior, available online now at TIX on the Square and at the Timms Centre box office one hour before each performance.

For more details see:

The University of Alberta’s Alumni Association invites alumni and their guests for a special Backstage All Access experience at A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Saturday, Feb. 6
Cocktail reception (cash bar): 6 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Presentation/discussion with Betty Moulton, U of A Department of Drama Acting Chair: 6:30 p.m. – 7:15 p.m.
Performance: 7:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Register before Feb. 1 here.

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