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Monday, June 11, 2012

Harvey Oral History: Peter Brook's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The following is excerpted from a transcription of an oral history conducted by BAM archivist Sharon Lehner and critic John Rockwell with BAM's ex-President, Harvey Lichtenstein. This excerpt, along with many others, is part of From Brooklyn to the World, the archival exhibition celebrating BAM's 150th anniversary, on view in BAM's lobby through August 31st.

A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo: David Farrell

LICHTENSTEIN: You know, I met Peter Brook through Grotowski, through the Grotowski engagement, and he told me—this was in the fall of ’69—and he told me he was going back to Stratford[-upon-Avon, England] in ’70 and doing a new production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then I read the reviews. I guess Clive [Barnes] had gone over to see it and reviewed it in The Times. And, of course, it got the most astonishing set of notices you can imagine. I went over to see it in the fall of ’69, and I think probably, if I had to pick one performance, John, of all the ones I’ve seen that affected me more than anything else, it would be that performance of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

ROCKWELL: That’s interesting. I never saw it, but my wife feels the same way.


ROCKWELL: Yes, that it would just change her life.

John Kane (right), as Puck. Photo: David Farrell

LICHTENSTEIN: Because it was a circus. It had a lot of scatological stuff. It had acrobatic stuff. It was wild, and yet it was the play, and it was the piece. At the end of the piece, when—I was sitting on the aisle—I remember seeing it at Stratford; it was the first time I was in Stratford, and Puck says those last lines, “Give me your hands if we be friends, and Robin will restore amends.” And then the whole cast poured off the stage and came down the steps and walked up the aisles, shaking hands with the people there. And by the time Puck came to me and I was on the aisle—what the hell was the guy’s name? John [Kane] was the actor’s name who played Puck. I grabbed him around. I wouldn’t let him go. He must have thought I was a madman. I was in tears, and I just wouldn’t let him go.

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