Midsummer Night’s Dream This Weekend at the IronDoor
Following on the heels of the recent Renaissance Faire, Donna Whipple's Shakespeare class will be presenting a performance of the bard’s classic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Iron Door Playhouse this Friday 13, Saturday 14, and next Monday 16 at 7:00 p.m. The play, directed and abridged by Ada Campbell, will feature a cast composed entirely of youths, many of whom were involved in the production of the Renaissance Faire.
Taking on the master himself can often be a somewhat daunting task, as not only do the plays generally feature large casts with interwoven elements, but the language itself can often be a barrier for memorization.
When they can’t remember the next line,” director Ada Campbell says, “I tell them ‘remember that it rhymes!’” Many actors find that while the language at first can be daunting and unfamiliar, eventually it becomes something of second nature. Given the compressed nature of the rehearsal schedule, the skill on display during Monday’s dress performance was impressive, with many of the actors demonstrating excellent facility with the 400 year old script.
The cast of nearly 30 kids has been working on the play since near the end of “Calamity Jane” scant months ago. Tryouts took place during that play’s run, and “Midsummer” has had nearly constant rehearsals since then in preparation for the demands of the material.
The play is generally considered one of Shakespeare’s most indelible comedies, along with “Twelfth Night” and “Much Ado about Nothing,” and like those, deals with various romantic misunderstandings, unrequited loves, and farcical subplots. Unlike the others, this play deals with the supernatural involvement of fairies, who wreak havoc on a set of characters.
In the original play, the fairies are led by King Oberon and Queen Titania. Due to the scarcity of available male leads, Campbell has adapted the play to change the king and queen roles to those of two queenly sisters, Titania (Sarah Young) and Mab (a character thought to have largely been invented by Shakespeare in a speech in “Romeo and Juliet,” played by Sara Rogers), who share a similarly competitive relationship as the original king and queen. They are reconfigured as the queens of summer and winter.
The play involves the escalating humorous events that occur after Robin Goodfellow (also known as Puck, and played by standout Doris Young) places love spells on sleeping characters, causing them to madly pursue the wrong people. Nick Bottom (Jaxom Whipple) is the central comic figure, who begins the play as an overly enthusiastic actor, but becomes a donkey and the accidental object of affection for the queen.
The play has also, of course, been abridged for length. The original five act play runs thousands of lines, and many of them focus on minor plot developments that would bring the production’s length into the four or five hour arena. At present, the play is clocking in at under two hours in rehearsal, depending on intermission.
During the course of the Shakespeare class, the student-actors made voice recordings of their lines to practice from, and aid in everyone else’s learning of the sometimes difficult lines. “I want them to have. Great experience,” Campbell said. “If you’re going to be in the theatre, you’ve got to love the theatre. And this is Shakespeare, you know. It’s hard, but it’s important.” Campbell explained that some actors occasionally had trouble expressing strong emotions in their scenes. “I told them, look—be mad at your brother. Everyone knows how to be mad at their brother, right?” she laughed. Campbell will be on hand behind the scenes to help feed lines and direct traffic.
The full cast involves nearly 30 students, many of whom were participants in Donna Whipple’s “Shakespeare and his times” class. Among the featured parts are Hermia (Sadie Randall), Lysander (Leon Derillo), Helena (Serena Whipple), Demetrius (Alex White), Theseus (Mordecai Charles), Hippolyta (Sarah Beyler), Egeus (Auron Derillo), Philostrate (Sadie Jameson), Peter Quince (Winona Young), Francis Flute (William Whipple), Tom Snout (Savanna Young), Snug (Kaden Jameson), Robin Starveling (Jaquelynn Young), Fairies (Zadie Talamantes and Gabie Lund), Peaseblossom (Rebecca McCracken), Cobweb (Jaylynn Green), Mote (Jade Charles), Mustardseed (Esther Laing), The Changeling Child (Ronan Jameson), Hippolyta’s lady servant (Denae Colgrove), and dancing fairies (Caroline Whipple, Karmen Charles, Liberty Charles, Nicole White, and Esther Rogers).
This ambitious production also features a music and dance rendition of the dance of the fairies, which is visually delightful and should leave you with a lingering earworm after the fact.