A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream

Poster for the video release of "A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream"

"If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear."

- Excerpt from "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Penned in the late sixteenth century by William Shakespeare, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is without a doubt one of the most famous plays in history. Though the play has been performed thousands of times on the world's most iconic stages, it wasn't until the late twentieth century that the play was first translated to the ice. Though it was earlier used as a theme of an ice show at Sea World San Diego in the summer of 1988, the first large-scale adaptation of the legendary play took place four years later at the Granite Curling Club in Edmonton, Alberta.

Michael Slipchuk and Kevin Cottam in rehearsals for "A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream"
Michael Slipchuk and Kevin Cottam

Presented by the National Ice Theatre Of Canada, "A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream" debuted from August 16 to 23 as part of the Edmonton Fringe Festival. The brainchild of choreographer Kevin Cottam, it was the first figure skating production in the Edmonton Fringe Festival's eleven year history at the time. Uniquely, Cottam set Shakespeare's play in a subway station, focusing "on the Changeling boy's relationship with the bickering royal couple, Oberon and Titania", according to the August 13, 1992 issue of the "Edmonton Journal". The stars of the Fringe production (Michael Slipchuk, Cameron Medhurst, Anisette Torp-Lind, J.P. Martin, Mark Schmitke and Allison McLean and Konrad Schaub) honed their acting skills with Jan Miller. An original score was composed, recorded and performed by Jan Randall. 

Though the production was wildly popular with Fringe audiences and sold out for all thirteen performances, the reviews weren't all favourable. Theatre critic Christopher Dafoe, covering the show in the August 19, 1992 of "The Globe And Mail", was less than complimentary: "As dance theatre, Ice Dream is, well, a wonderful bit of figure skating. As Puck, the only character in the production who speaks, Australian skater Cameron Medhurst sounds like he's about to deliver an off-colour joke about sheilas and kangaroos. J.P. Martin and Anisette Torp-Lind show some flash as Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the underworld, but the rest of the skaters, including Canadian champion Michael Slipchuk - he plays Bottom as a janitor - play their parts with the emotional range of a Zamboni. Jan Randall's score is a patchwork of pop, jazz and classical themes that sound as if they were all processed through the same synthesizer and Allison Warman's body-conscious costume design has the unfortunate effect of making the fairies look like extras in Flashdance. Still, there's no arguing with success and now that the Fringe has dipped its toe into sports theatre, we can no doubt expect a flood of jock thespians. Look forward to Kurt Browning as a giant insect in an adaptation of Kafka's Metamorph-Ice. Silken Laumann sculling the North Saskatchewan River in a distaff production of Three Men In A Boat. And, of course, Michael Jordan starring in Nike Theatre's full-court production of Arthur Miller's classic Death of A Pitchman."

Performers in "A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream"

Despite Dafoe's criticisms, in May 1994 the production was adapted for television by Tohaventa Holdings with an all-star cast, including Liz Manley, Yuka Sato and Jozef Sabovčík. Australian Champion Cameron Medhurst reprised his role as Puck. Filming for the ninety minute television special took place in Spruce Grove, Alberta.

Elizabeth Manley having her makeup done for "A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream"

The show was picked up for national broadcast in Canada and later shown on PBS in the United States. It won an Alberta Film and Television Award for Musical or Variety in 1995. Although "A Midsummer Night's Ice Dream" and the National Ice Theatre of Canada's other two taped productions have since somewhat fallen into obscurity, they speak to an important era in Canadian figure skating history when creativity was at a peak and opportunities existed for experimentation and artistic growth.

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