‘The course of true love never did run smooth’

Andrew Ray, Sydney Young, Dan Sandfelder and Tara Buckley, cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: An Appalachian Folktale,” performed select scenes from the play at the Mountain Muse Saturday night as a sneak preview to the performances to be held Thursday through Saturday at at Middle Creek National Battlefield.

The Bard is coming to the Bluegrass in an inventive re-telling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” to be performed at Middle Creek National Battlefield at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 6 through Sunday, June 9.

However in a twist, Athens becomes Appalachia in this adaptation by a local director and recent University of Kentucky Treyton Blackburn which features both local and professional talent for the first-ever Eastern Kentucky “Shakespeare in the Park” production.

Prestonsburg Tourism Executive Director Samantha West also said that more events to celebrate the bard will be announced throughout the week on the Star City Shakespeare Festival page on Facebook.

Bringing Shakespeare to Eastern Kentucky is a long-time dream of Blackburn’s.

“One of the things you realize quite quickly when you get into ‘Midsummers Night Dream’ is how well Shakespearian text works in our Appalachian dialect,” he said. “A lot of the ‘sound’ and cadence of Elizabethan English, which is what Shakespeare wrote in is not too far removed from the roots of our Eastern Kentucky accents.”

Blackburn proposed the idea to the he University of Kentucky Theatre and Dance Program and is collaborating with community partners at the Appalachian Center of the Arts, the Floyd County Extension Service, the City of Prestonsburg, the Middle Creek National Battlefield Foundation, Prestonsburg Tourism, the Mountain Arts Center and more to bring this production to life.  

The cast stars UK professors Andrew Ray as Oberon and Dr. Christina Ritter as Titania as well as Tara Buckley as Helena, Dan Sandfelder as Demetrius, Gavin Parker as Lysander, Lyndsey Pennington as Hermia, Brad Bryant as Nick Bottom, Roger Belcher as Snug the Joiner, Rodney Ruth as Peter Quince, Jason Justice as Francis Flute, Paul Platt as John Snout Dave Sykes as Robin Starveling and Syndey Young as the irrepressible Puck.

“The plot essentially revolves around three plots which are central themes in Appalachia,” said Blackburn. “First, it’s the tale of two star-crossed lovers, determined not to be separated by circumstance. The second is of a couple in the midst of a custody battle over a child, and the third, and closest to my heart, is the tale of the Rude Mechanicals — a group of good ole’ boys trying to put on a play for the mayor’s wedding.”

Admission will be picnic style and only $5 a blanket, so gather the family, bring a blanket and supper, and enjoy a theatrical experience unlike any other.

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