The Young Auditorium at the University of Wisconsin in Wisconsin has a long-standing relationship with Aquila Theatre Company and always excited to present their work. The Auditorium’s vision is to function as an indispensable resource, acting as a perpetual catalyst for inspiration and community. The 400-acre campus is part of a community of a little more than 14,000 people with an undergraduate enrollment over 11,000 students annually.
With the assistance of the Cultural Affairs Committee composed of students and community members, the Auditorium’s season comes together. This provides an opportunity for students to gain insight into arts administration. Each year, the staff brings a group of these students to the Arts Midwest Conference to continue to expand their knowledge of the performing arts field.
The Auditorium works closely with the College of Education and Special Studies that prepares the largest number of teachers in the state, as well as the English and art departments. A general course that students take is called the World of Arts. In this class, students are exposed to the performing and visual arts and gain insight into the basic components of the arts, the role of art in society, and a historical perspective.
Through these partnerships, students and youths are inspired by the live performances presented on the Auditorium’s stage. During my visit to the community, I had the opportunity to see Aquila Theatre Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which was being presented in the community in rep with Frankenstein. The company’s visit to Whitewater is one of many stops in the Midwest that includes Batavia and Bloomington, Illinois; Notre Dame, Terre Haute, and West Lafayette, Indiana, Decorah, Iowa; Saginaw, Michigan; Collegeville, Minnesota; and Green Bay, Wisconsin. This visit and a number of others are made possible through the support of the Arts Midwest Touring Fund.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is directed by Executive Artistic Director Desiree Sanchez and features a cast of seven actors: Lily Donovan, James Donavan, Jack Klaff, Rob Madeley, Eleanor McLoughlin, Caroline Moroney, Elliott Ross, and John Nehlich. This is one of Shakespeare’s comedies and it was brought to life through a minimal set and dynamic lighting. The artistic decisions of casting the character Puck with two actors and how this character was handled throughout the production was brilliant.
Prior to the production, two of the actors took questions and spoke about the play with some audience members. In addition, they conducted workshops with University students during their stay. During the intermission, I observed a group of young men dressed in their sportswear who were having a discussion about what they had seen so far. One was incredibly excited and discussed many elements of the story. I then saw him completely engaged in what was happening on stage during the rest of the performance.
Aquila Theatre Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and their educational workshops with middle and high school students in the Midwest and throughout the nation is supported by the Shakespeare in American Communities, a national theater program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.