A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Copley Square

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's founding artistic director recalls a very special production.

Commonwealth Shakespeare Company midsummer night's dream

Photograph by Susan Zeeman Rogers

July 1996

“This was a very special production for me, of course, because it was our first and it launched the company. The grand vision was a theater that would make high art truly, passionately accessible to anybody and everybody. It wasn’t a new idea, but we really wanted to see if there was an audience for free Shakespeare in the summer in Boston, if the philanthropic and critical communities were going to be supportive, and if the -artistic community was going to be interested in all of this. So it was a test of concept in many ways.

The set for A Midsummer Night’s Dream was designed by Susan Zeeman Rogers. It was this simple but very evocative series of sails—of sheets of fabric. With the color of the lighting, the color of the set, the color of the costumes, and with very little money, we created this beautiful, rich production. People still remember it, which is kind of remarkable.

I think it was about the fusion and integration of dance, and wonderful actors like Faran Tahir and Siobhan Brown. It’s the swirl of our beautiful city, this extraordinary language, and beautiful sets and costumes. That original production encapsulated ​everything we were trying to say in terms of what Shakespeare means—how he wrote his plays for everyone—and our mission was, likewise, to bring these great pieces to the people of Boston.”

—Steven Maler, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company’s founding artistic director