During William Shakespeare's lifetime, there was a lot of belief among the populace that fairies and other magical beings could cast spells on you while you were sleeping, says Kim Tobin-Lehl, who is co-directing A Midsummer Night's Dream with her husband, Philip Lehl, at Stark Naked Theatre. Both are looking for that same willingness to imagine mystical possibilities from audience members ready to once more engage with Puck, Bottom, Titania, Oberon, and the lovers Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius. The play begins a three-week run on Friday.
"We were both interested in doing a comedy," says Tobin-Lehl after recent seasons with Macbeth (very somber) and A Winter's Tale (mixed). The plot is somewhat involved: Theseus and Hippolyta are about to be married and have engaged a troupe of players -- Bottom among them -- for the wedding ceremony. In nearby Fairyland, Oberon and Titania are at odds, and the fairy king launches a plan to embarrass her through the use of a love potion administered to closed eyelids. Puck is the designated messenger, and in short order makes a hash of it when Oberon decides to get involved in human affairs and help the scorned Helena achieve the love of Demetrius. Bottom is the luckless actor who acquires a donkey's head and with whom Titania becomes infatuated.
Lehl says the play revolves in many ways around Bottom, who'll be played by Drake Simpson. "Bottom is really the creation in this play that nobody else had done before. He's sort of an early Falstaff," Lehl says. Luis Galindo is on board in the dual roles of Oberon and Duke Theseus, and the cast includes three University of Houston actors. By the end, of course, everyone gets sorted out and there are marriages all round. In keeping with their usual simple set design (although watch the hanging ropes that become more tangled over time, mirroring the relationships), Lehl says they'll depend on lots of lights and small costume changes (everyone plays at least two characters) to get their points across. Otherwise, they'll let Shakespeare's words speak for themselves.
After performing Shakespeare for several years in Los Angeles on large stages, which required grand gestures and loud projections, Galindo says he really welcomes the smaller stage at the Studio 101 theater. "This is really beautifully written. This is one of the ones that is not a retread [based on history or someone else's story]," Galindo says. "To have that prodigious an imagination. This is re-invigorating my interest in Shakespeare."
A Midsummer Night's Dream runs 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays; and 7:30 p.m. March 16. Through March 21. Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring. For information, call 832‑866‑6514 or visit starknakedtheatre.com. $12 to $40.
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Here's a little music trivia for you: Shostakovitch and Prokofiev, both hugely influential composers, were unabashedly successful with music for the cinema. The Houston Symphony's Blockbuster Film Scores concert, which runs over the weekend starting on Friday, showcases some of the incredible music that's been heard in films over the past 30 years. Michael Krajewski, principal POPS conductor, leads the orchestra in a program that includes excerpts from Forrest Gump, Titanic and The Lord of the Rings along with more from composers Hans Zimmer and John Williams.
"People will recognize pretty much everything on the program," says Krajewski. The POPS conductor is most enthusiastic about the newer additions to the list, such as Avatar and Star Trek: Into Darkness. This will be the first time he'll lead these scores. Along with the audience, he'll be hearing the music blossom for the first time.
It was a similar concert of popular music that first sparked a passion for music in Krajewski. "I got into music when my parents took me to free concerts in the park where the Detroit Symphony was playing. They would play popular music and Peter and the Wolf, and that's how I first heard a symphony orchestra. I fell in love with the sound the orchestra made."
The weekend run includes performances at 8 p.m. March 6 and 7; 7:30 p.m. March 8. Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana. For information, call 713-224-7575 or visit houstonsymphony.org. $24 to $134.
Stuart is a high school student who has decided to make a movie, with graphic violence, extreme sex and the walking dead. It's "a kind of vampire overlord thing," says actor Josh Morrison, who plays Craig, the latest love interest of Stuart's mom and the man who's about to move into Stuart's home and disrupt his life even further. In Catastrophic Theatre's world premiere of The Blackest Shore, by playwright Mark Schultz, the story of a young man who's trying to find himself is told in terms both graphic and violent, but with a love story as well, Morrison says. Blackest Shore closes on Saturday.
"He lives with his mom and something terrible has happened to him," says Morrison, who describes his own character as "a good guy who's a little rough around the edges." While Morrison says he doesn't expect audience members to scream in terror, he says there are "some really big gasp moments." None of the characters are really bad people, Morrison says, but the play shows how circumstances can really change people's lives.
Morrison says the play -- one of two Mark Schultz works that Catastrophic will present this season -- has a general audience appeal. "It's about young men finding their voices in the world." Other cast members include Candice D'Meza, Elizabeth Marshall Black, John Gremillion, Zachary Leonard and Gabriel Regojo. Directed by Jason Nodler, assisted by Kyle Sturdivant.
The final performances of The Blackest Shore are at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 1119 East Freeway. For information, visit catastrophictheatre.com or call 713-522-2723. Pay-what-you-can.
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On Saturday, the Mini-Dallas VideoFest is coming to Houston thanks to Bart Weiss, co-founder of the Dallas VideoFest; John Dean Alfone, founder and producer of Corsair Media Productions; micro-cinema 14 Pews; and Houston's Women in Film and Television.
"Houston is a very hip city." says Alfone. "People here are progressive. I think they're definitely interested in [film]. I think [the festival's]...for people who want to see something different...and I think it will give them some kind of cutting-edge look at non-Hollywood, high-quality filmmaking."
One of the highlights of the festival is The Trouble with Ray, a short that focuses on gay and prisoner rights activist Ray Hill's recollection of the Houston LGBT movement. The short is produced by Jarrod Gullot and directed by Travis Johns. There is also Carmen Menza's astrophotographic exploration Dream Big. Menza's short is in line with the festival's focus on displays of new technology. Currently a Houstonian, Alfone has a short in the festival, The Arnold Chronicles; it was filmed in his home state of Louisiana.
VideoFest, which just celebrated its 27th year, is known as a huge supporter of Texas filmmakers and artists. "The vast majority of the artists who show work at VideoFest are Texans."
Screenings run 3:30 to 11 p.m. on Saturday. 14 Pews, 800 Aurora. For information, visit 14pews.org. $10.
Amy Rahmani, arts and culture program coordinator at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, calls the schedule for the 11th annual Houston Jewish Film Festival "phenomenal." Fans are sure to agree.
"We have a phenomenal lineup this year...Films that will make you think, make you laugh, make you cry" Rahmani says. "Above all, you get to experience the best Jewish and Israeli films around the world."
One of the highlights of the festival is Above and Beyond. "We're very excited to have the producer of the film [Nancy Spielberg] with us...she will be introducing the film and leading a question-and-answer session. The film is...a nice documentary that tells a story that you just don't hear very often about the birth of the Israeli air force. And you'll hear the story directly from the pilots, who just add a lot of color and fun to the experience," Rahmani says.
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There's also a 90-minute shorts program that includes half a dozen films that range from six minutes to 25 minutes and from tragedy to comedy. There's tragedy in the festival opener, Run Boy Run, on Sunday. The short chronicles a nine-year old Polish boy's fight to preserve his life and his Jewish faith in Nazi-occupied Poland. Comedy comes in the form of The Funeral. "Though it doesn't sound like it, [The Funeral] is actually a funny short." And there's a little of both in the tragic yet entertaining Auschwitz On My Mind. Filmmaker Dani Menkin is also expected to attend the festival to introduce his newest film, a romantic comedy, Is That You, and lead a post-film discussion on closing night, March 22.
Rahmani believes the filmmakers attending the festival "bring insights into their films and the background of how the stories came about...I think it's just always a wonderful addition for the audience to be able to talk with the filmmakers." In total, the festival boasts 28 films, from full-length features to shorts, screened over a 15-day period.
Screenings will be held at the Evelyn Rubenstein JCC; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Holocaust Museum Houston; and Landmark River Oaks Theatre. Screening times and locations vary. For information, call 713‑551‑7255 or visit erjcchouston.org. $10 to $80.
Margaret Downing, Alexandra Doyle and Katricia Lang contributed to this post.