Andrew Vonderschmitt, Long Beach Playhouse’s producing artistic director, recently interviewed director Sean F. Gray (below) about his production of A Midsummer Night’s Gay Dream, a revamped version of the William Shakespeare classic that is currently in its run at the Playhouse.
Andrew Vonderschmitt: So, Sean, why a gay version of the play?
Sean F. Gray: Why not? Is love not love regardless of gender? Is heterosexual romance different from homosexual romance? I see no difference beyond the gender of those involved.
AV: You’ve got me there. Still, how is this version going to differ from the audience’s experience of the original play?
SG: To me, although there are differences from the original in terms of structure and the traditional gender roles, I haven’t really changed the play all that much. At its core, it is still about love and how love can be magical and crazy, often at the same time. The lovers still wander about the woods, fighting, arguing, and literally running towards, or away from, love. The only difference now is that those lovers are of the same sex.
AV: Were you inspired by California’s experience with Prop 8, DOMA and the cases that went before the Supreme Court?
SG: When I first knew I would be directing this play, the cases had not yet been accepted for review by the Supreme Court. Once they had been accepted, I had faith they would reach the right decision and uphold the guarantee of equal rights for all. Now, as a nation, we are one step closer to making the right to marry the person we love the law of the land. So while I wouldn’t say I was inspired by the legal wrangling, it certainly felt like the right moment in time to show that even the most traditional love story could be told from a gay perspective, which underscores the universality of love.
AV: How do you think the Bard would react to what you’ve done with his great comedy?
SG: I take comfort in the idea of what many scholars and historians believe about our illustrious playwright– that he played for both teams. He loved both men and women, and thus knew from his own experience, the central theme that love is love– that it’s universal.
AV: What do you think the message of this play is?
SG: At heart, we all dream of the same thing– to be loved. And not only loved, but loved for who we are. Love is the common thread that binds us and makes us remember that beyond all of our superficialities, we aren’t that different. And while I long, with many in the LGBT community, to see protagonists in plays that I can personally identify with, I realize that stories should and need to be for everyone. I think what our team accomplishes with this retelling of the traditional story is that we can all identify with people who seem different from us if we remember what makes us the same.
AV: Very deep thoughts, my friend. Any final words you’d like to share?
SG: I hope all who attend will be glad they came to spend a couple of hours in the woods with us.
A Midsummer Night’s Gay Dream will continue at the Long Beach Playhouse, 5021 E. Anaheim St., through Saturday, Aug. 24. Performances are at 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays and at 2pm on Sundays. The box office is open Wednesday through Saturday from 3pm to 8pm and Sundays from 1pm to 2pm on scheduled matinee days only. Tickets for adults are $24, seniors $21, and students $14.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit lbplayhouse.org or call (562) 494-1014.