Present-Day Prose

Present-Day Prose

Theatre company modernizes The Bard

NWA Democrat-Gazette

The bold and inventive Aquila Theatre Company that The New York Times calls a “classically trained, modernly hip troupe” returns to Fayetteville March 16. Last year, the company brought their dynamic interpretation of “Sense and Sensibility” to the Walton Arts Center. They return this weekend with an invigorating take on Shakespeare’s romantic comedy classic,“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as part of their 2018/19 national tour.

“I think that’s the fear of all audience members, really, and especially newcomers to the theater. There’s a fear of, ‘Oh, Shakespeare’s an olden language, it’s classical, it’s going to be done in a very boring aspect,’” muses actor James Donovan. “When really, now, Shakespeare is a completely different art form and it’s been completely modernized and revolutionized. As artists, we also like that it’s very physical. We’ve done a very physical job with it, and we’ve made it very easy and accessible to audience members.

“Our director Desiree [Sanchez] comes from a dance background, so everything she does is very stylized in terms of movement,” Donovan explains. “Every piece she creates is very physical. As actors, we’re all storytellers, but taking a different art form and bending into ours is very unique. I think that’s something that Aquila has always done. So the audience is going to get a nice concoction of a few different art forms.”

Donovan stars as the mischievous fairy Puck in the comedy that follows the intertwining of different story lines comprising love, deception, mysticism, a ridiculous play-within-the-play and abounding hilarity. One of the interesting things about the Aquila company, though, is they are touring two productions simultaneously with the same cast. Thus, Donovan also stars as Victor Frankenstein in the troupe’s envisioning of Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” The shows alternate here and there as the company travels across the country.

“Frankenstein is sort of the lead, he drives the story, but also he has a huge emotional journey. So it’s really tough doing that night after night after night,” Donovan shares. “Just making sure that I’m on point for that, and then we do the Shakespeare, which is a completely different challenge. So having two very diverse plays is a challenge.

“But it’s wonderful because, even if we do the same show [in a state], different audiences pick up on certain nuances and parts of the show that maybe the last audience didn’t pick up on,” he goes on. “So it’s great to see different interpretations. And, luckily for us, it’s fairly universal and we’ve made it beautiful, and we’ve got wonderful actors in the company who make it very easy for the audience.”

Photo courtesy: Richard Termine
The Times Daily says of Aquila Theatre Company it “changes the perceptions of classical drama by freeing the spirit of the original text for modern audiences.” The troupe returns to the Walton Arts Center March 16 with its striking re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”



Aquila Theatre Company’s

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

WHEN — 8 p.m. March 16

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $10

INFO — 443-5600,,

Categories: Cover Story