Fall play is Midsummer Night’s Dream
Like the most popular kid at the prom, A Midsummer Night’s Dream never fails to crack the top-10 list of the most-produced high school plays each year — the only play by Shakespeare to do so.
“The course of true love never did run smooth,” its best-known line, will be heard at the Haldane auditorium from Dec. 9 to 11 when the space is transformed into a sylvan forest populated by fairies, a quartet of bickering and fickle young lovers and a bumbling troupe of wannabe thespians, with plenty of shenanigans, spells, potions and wiles.
Martha Mechalakos, the director of Haldane Drama, believes the most obvious reason for Dream’s popularity is its accessibility.
“It has a large cast of many types of interesting characters in clearly defined groups,” she says. “It’s one of Shakespeare’s best, coming from one of his most productive periods of writing, and it is genuinely funny. It is solidly constructed, and lean — it is one of his shortest plays — without a lot of what I lovingly refer to as ‘gnarly speeches.’ It works extremely well and is a fantastic way to introduce young people to Shakespeare. But the best reason to do A Midsummer Night’s Dream is fairies: no rules.”
The Cast (Photos by Jim Mechalakos)
Percy Parker, who plays “bellows mender” and amateur actor Francis Flute, says it’s easy to get caught up in the unfamiliar language, “overthinking every word and convincing yourself that it’s too ‘smart’ to mean anything to our modern lives. But once you get past that, as we all have had to do as actors, you find this funny, emotional play that resonates with all of us as teenagers.
“You have this blend of desire and love and strength from the lovers, combined with the sheer absurdity and earnestness and stupidity from the mechanicals [the laborers who double as amateur actors], all held together by the calculated, beautiful madness of the fairies.
“For us, as teenagers trying to find a sense of self, it is the perfect show that mixes a million different types of selves and throws them all into the woods together one night just to see what will happen.”
Maya Gelber, who plays Helena, says many cast members put aside initial misgivings about the choice. “At first many of us were frustrated that we were doing Shakespeare because of how notoriously hard it is to understand Shakespeare’s text,” she says. “But I’ve found a lot of joy in understanding what every character is saying. Shakespeare’s writing is so full of depth and nuance that becoming familiar with the text is both intimidating and satisfying.”
It helps to have such saucy and silly language to work with. A few cast members shared the favorite lines they speak:
Lucius Bell (Puck): “Then slip I from her Bum, down topples she and ‘Tailor!’ ”
Bell adds: “A victory is when you learn your lines, you have the ability to make them yours, to play with them and see what fits and what doesn’t.”
Molly Bernstein (First Fairy): “My favorite is when she leads a lullaby for Titania, the Fairy Queen, singing hauntingly to warn the forest creatures that the fairies will keep them away using powerful energy. She says things like ‘You spotted snakes with double tongue,’ and ‘Worm nor snail do no offense.’ The eloquent language all flows together in a beautiful rhyme which is enchanting.”
Lucas Vladimiroff (Nick Bottom): “ ‘And I am such a tender ass, if my hair do but tickle me, I must scratch.’ He is making a pun, but you just think: What on earth? He is probably one of the few Shakespearean characters that — to an audience member who struggles discerning the complex meaning of many of the Bard’s sonnets — makes the most sense, mainly because he doesn’t.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed at the Haldane auditorium, at 15 Craigside Drive in Cold Spring, on Dec. 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12 ($5 for students and seniors) at showtix4u.com or at the door for $15 ($8 for students and seniors).