I am honored to announce that the Trinity Shakespeare Festival, for its 8th season on the Texas Christian University campus, has engaged Stephen Brown-Fried to return to direct the Bard’s beloved comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Festival runs June 7 through 26, 2016.
When asked how he feels about coming back to Fort Worth to direct for a fifth time, New York City-based Brown-Fried radiates enthusiasm. “Returning to Trinity Shakespeare Festival is something I am colossally excited about. For four summers, TSF was my artistic home-away-from-home, and it gives me great joy to rejoin the company. TJ Walsh has, over the past seven seasons, built an extraordinary company of artists, all committed to creating productions that celebrate the great wonder, magic, and incredible potency of Shakespeare’s plays. For me, paradise is working on excellent material with artists who I know and respect, and with whom I’ve had an opportunity to develop an ongoing artistic conversation that spans multiple productions — so there really is nothing better than the circumstances Trinity Shakespeare affords.”
Brown-Fried currently works as Artistic Associate and Casting Director for Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, one of the largest professional Shakespeare companies in North America, where he most recently directed Misalliance, and Awake and Sing at The Public Theater, with the National Asian American Theatre Company. As Associate Artist at the Trinity Shakespeare Festival he directed Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar. In 2012, his production of The Merchant of Venice was named one of the year’s top regional productions by D Magazine, Theater Jones, Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Criticalrant.com.
Contemplating the prospect of Brown-Fried’s return, TJ Walsh, Trinity Shakespeare’s Founding Artistic Director, resonates with high praise. “Stephen Brown-Fried is the best young director of Shakespeare in the country. To have him back with Trinity this summer, especially for a play like Midsummer, is a joy. I could not be happier for our audiences, actors and our growing Shakespeare community in the Dallas/Fort Worth region. This is going to be a fascinating season for us because we are mounting perhaps the favorite of all Shakespeare’s plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play that needs a firm, focused and fun guiding hand – all that Steve possesses. From a directing point of view I think it could be Shakespeare’s most challenging play to fully realize and make true. Trinity could not ask for a better director in finding the truth in this wonderful play than Stephen Brown-Fried.”
What can audiences expect from Brown-Fried’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Trinity Shakespeare?
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream was my introduction to the theatre and to Shakespeare when, at the ripe old age of 12, I played Nick Bottom — my first time ever performing onstage. Since then, I played the role a second time, directed the play twice, and have seen countless other productions of it. To call the play ‘magical’ is an understatement; it manages somehow to celebrate the extraordinary miracles of human aspiration while at the same time reminding us of our infinitesimal place in the cosmos.
Evidence suggests that Shakespeare was working on Midsummer around the same time he was writing Romeo and Juliet, and I’ve sometimes thought of the former play as a sort of comic version of the later. Both plays deal with the madness of young love — its irrational, hobgoblin-like nature — and both contain a poetic lushness — a sort of overflowing lyricism and an almost insane concentration of imagery and allusion — that you rarely find elsewhere in the canon. It’s this overflowing quality to the poetry, I think, that gives both plays their intoxicating richness.
The theme of dreams and their affect on our day-to-day lives runs throughout the play. Some critics have asked whose dream it is that we’re watching over the course of the play. Like a dream, the play refuses the sort of linear logic that would allow an answer to that question. Rather, I think that we’re watching every character’s dream, to some extent — whether it’s the dream of love unencumbered by a parent’s tyranny, the dream of becoming someone other than who you are, or the dream of entering a world where everything you know happens differently, under the authority of a different type of logic. In this way, the play replicates the experience of theatre itself — a world in which we’re free to experience ideas and passions that, though intoxicating, would terrify and possibly harm us out of the safety of the theatre’s four walls.”
Brown-Fried mirrors Walsh’s sentiments with praise of his own. “Working for TJ is a rare privilege — as an Artistic Director and colleague, he combines unwavering support for his artists with a passionate love for the plays he’s producing. Through the unique blend of his critical eye and loving heart, he has made it possible for me to do work that I am incredibly proud of, which is really all that a director could ever ask for.”
TJ Walsh will direct The Winter’s Tale, recently featured in a national screening by Fathom Events of Kenneth Branagh Company’s stage production with Dame Judi Dench, filmed at London’s Garrick Theatre.
Walsh shares his perspectives on The Winter’s Tale: “It is a play that has incredible depth of character and story as well as Shakespeare’s light, romantic touch. It is typically an under-performed play. Perhaps it is gaining currency again with modern audiences because of its underlying message of regret and forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s a melancholy play that appeals to the “what ifs” and “if I could go back and do it again” sentiments that touch us all as we grow older.”
Seasoned professionals continue to flesh out the technical teams designing and building Trinity Shakespeare’s productions in 2016. Regional leading scenic designer Bob Lavallee will help Brown-Fried create the world of Midsummer along with costume designer Aaron Patrick DeClerk, lighting designer Tristan Decker and sound designer Toby Algya. The Winter’s Tale design team includes senior scenic designer Clare DeVries, costume designer Lloyd Cracknell, lighting designer Michael Skinner and sound designer Toby Algya. Auditions take place in January. Expect the return of some veteran Trinity Shakespeare favorites, including David Coffee.
All’s well that ends well? I can hardly wait for Trinity Shakespeare’s 2016 season, mounted under the expert artistic visions of TJ Walsh and Stephen Brown-Fried.
Alexandra Bonifield, Criticalrant.com
For information about the Trinity Shakespeare Festival visit http://www.trinityshakes.org/.
It runs June 7 through 26, with tickets available online in May.
Stephen Brown-Fried is a graduate of Stanford and holds an MFA in directing from Yale. He is a member of SDC, the Stage Directors and Choreographers’ Society.
Dr. Harry Parker is Founding Managing Director of Trinity Shakespeare Festival.
Criticalrant review of 2012 Trinity Shakespeare Festival: https://criticalrant.com/2012/06/28/bard-bonanza-2012-trinty-shakespeare-festival/