book by Renée Bucciarelli & Matthew Burgos
based on the play by William Shakespeare
music by Da Burgos Brotherz, Anna Chapman & Lesley-Ann Giddings
directed by Renée Bucciarelli
Matthew Burgos came to me, his Teen Music Theatre Workshop
teacher at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, and Benny
Russell, his composition teacher and Head of the Jazz Division
at BCM, with a wonderful idea: let’s get the two classes
together to create an “urban,” musical version of
Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At that
time I was unaware that The Bombitty of Errors was
fast becoming an off-Broadway hit, and thought the idea
extremely fresh and exciting.
But where to begin? We
started with a handful of students: Matthew and brother
Andrew, Lesley-Ann Giddings, Anna Chapman, Miranda Knutson,
Alex Kasden, Alexa Roitman, and Stephanie Susberich, none of
whom knew the play all that intimately. We set about
familiarizing ourselves with the structure of the original
play, its plot, and characters. Then began an exciting round
of discussions in which we attempted to delineate contemporary
parallels to situation and character. Who were the
fairies? Were they aliens — for example —
who’d landed in Prospect Park to observe the foolish actions
of mortal earthlings? We ultimately chose to keep them the
closest to Shakespeare’s originals, the speakers of the play’s
most exquisite poetry, albeit now in the style of hip-hop.
The “rude mechanicals” of Shakespeare’s original became a
bumbling but sincere teen band, eager to perform for the
Welcome Back to Brooklyn celebration. “Duke Theseus”
became our “Bottom’s” uncle, the “Officer Duke” who is to be
crowned King of Brooklyn for bravery at that celebration.
“Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons” became Ms. Lita Pollit,
principal at the high school the teens attend in our version.
And so we
began to write. I’d bring in a scene, we’d read it together
and teen editorializing would begin: “No one gets ‘grounded’
anymore, you’re on ‘lock down’!”. As the excitement grew,
others tried their hands at a scene or two. My (and
Benny’s) turn to editorialize: “Yes, Dimitri‘s a snake,
but he’s not a drug dealer!” Soon songs inspired by scenes
began to be added to the mix.
the Director of BCM caught wind of the excitement the project
was creating and graciously let us continue through the year
with this unprecedented experiment at the school. As
the group grew to its present large size, the inherent
diversity of it gave us all perhaps our most meaningful
lessons. In sketching comic characters issues of
archetypes and stereotypes inevitably arise; I am truly proud
of my students for their willingness to explore with open
minds and unflinching honesty very personal issues of age,
gender, and ethnicity, and to transcend their own notions.
If these teens are reflective of our city at large, the future
looks mighty good!
was selected to be part of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange Teen
Arts Festival and (from the life-imitating-art file) was
featured at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival on the WNYC
Deborah Wright Houston and Liz Shipman for their enthusiasm
for the project.
Will De Natale
Girl Fairies of Prospect
Boy Fairies of Prospect
Lavall "Brisk" Chichester
Eddie "Special Ed" Chaudry
Red "Red Reb Alpano
Michael Ray Escamilla*
David Rivel, Director of Brooklyn
Conservatory of Music and staff; Jennifer Newell, Alex
Veselo, Peggy McNeil and especially, all the parents for
their help and support.