We hope not!
“Full of vexation come I, with complaint against my child, my daughter Hermia.”
So speaks the character of Egeus in one of Shakespeare’s most famous (and most performed) comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The story is one we’ve heard before (Romeo and Juliet, anyone?) — two lovers, barred from marrying one another by the will of a meddling parent. Since it’s a comedy, it all works out in the end — Lysander and Hermia get hitched, as do the other pair of lovers, Demetrius and Helena. Midsummer is literally a fairy tale (just ask Oberon, Titania and Puck) and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is a happily ever after.
Of course, the Weird Sisters Women’s Theater Collective rarely take “happily ever after” at face value.
For the last seven years, the Austin’s Weirds have been putting their feminist spin on Shakespearean classics. From their first production, an adaptation of Macbeth called The Weird Sisters, Hand in Hand, this collaborative, all-female theater group has been addressing gender equality in an imaginative way.
This year, however, the Weird Sisters are planning to tackle a very specific civil rights issue: same-sex marriage.
“Finding resonances of today’s world in Shakespeare’s plays is so easy to do and so satisfying,” says Dr. Susan Todd, co-founder and director of the Weird Sisters. “In considering A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Weird Sisters’ own midsummer rumble, I had to think about the play’s fit to contemporary issues.”
And what’s a more fitting contemporary issue than same-sex marriage? In New York, the Marriage Equality Act goes into effect on July 24, 2011, and while Texas doesn’t seem to be particularly close to doing the same, the Weird Sisters are hopeful that change is on the horizon. Through its setting in present-day Austin and the clever gender bending switch of the male LysandER to the female LysandRA, their adaptation of the classic addresses the possibility of same-sex marriage legalization in Texas.
“Nowadays, a father like Egeus might rant about his of-age daughter marrying a guy he doesn’t like, but he wouldn’t have the law on his side,” says Todd. “That’s not so in the case of a daughter wanting to marry another woman–or a son another man. The Texas law would stand firmly on the side of the patriarch, as is depicted in the first scene of Midsummer. Theseus is a perfect match for Rick Perry, or any figurehead of any state that has yet to legalize same-sex marriage.”
To Alyson Curtis, a long-time Weird Sister, there’s a sub-issue at stake in the legalization of same-sex marriage that she is happy to address on stage. She is concerned that, “…women, in particular gay women, are often overlooked in our patriarchal society even within the gay community.” Since the Weird Sisters are primarily a feminist theater group, it’s no surprise that they have twisted the tale to explore same-sex marriage from the female perspective. “As we move forward in our thinking as a society and the walls surrounding hetero marriage crumble down, it’s often the two tuxedos on the wedding cake that we imagine first; it’s not two brides in full wedding gowns that comes to mind,” says Curtis. “With our version of Midsummer, we’ll bring this dynamic front and center, exploring the issue of gay marriage in an imaginary patriarchal world, not unlike our own.”
“A world not unlike our own” is a key phrase when it comes to the Weirds’ August production. Though it has a particularly strong LGBT community, Austin is only one city in a state that often seems bogged down with antiquated ideals. But Dr. Susan Gayle Todd is hopeful:
“With the recent ratification of same-sex marriage in New York, Texas couples like our Hermia and Lysandra hang in the balance between oppression and hope. I like to think this Dream is not far-fetched.”