Cheryl Black, University of Missouri associate professor of acting and theatre history, theory and criticism, loves Shakespeare. She believes nothing can compare to his natural talent for creating rich characters who live in alternate worlds, as well as his ability to bring humor into all his plays, even the tragedies.
That is why she chose “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which has been on her to-do list for a while now, for this winter’s theatre department production.
Written in the late 1500s, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” portrays interconnecting plots. The world of Fairyland, ruled by Titania and Oberon, interferes with the lives of young Athenian lovers, Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius; a love triangle (or square) that can still apply today.
“‘Midsummer’ has such fabulous roles for young people, especially college students, as well as great opportunity for tech design and costumes,” Black says.
As exciting as performing Shakespeare can be, it, like, all good things, comes with challenges.
“I was both intimidated and excited about Shakespeare at first, and honestly, I still am,” says senior Lynett Vallejo, who plays Titania. “All of this has been a growing experience for me as an actor.”
Although you may assume that the English language of the 1500s would be hard to understand now, senior Jackson Harned, who plays Lysander, says its not as hard as it sounds.
“His themes, styles, and humor universally translate,” Harned says. “It’s thrilling to perform a work which has remained popular and relevant over four centuries.”
The writing of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” allows for a little creative wiggle-room, permitting directors and cast members alike to make it their own — which is just what this production has done.
The play will include song and dance, which is choreographed by graduate student Vanessa Campagna.
“I was really inspired by the playfulness in this piece,” Campagna says. “I think that could describe a lot of the choreography.”
This performance also includes a puppet, acting as the “changeling boy.” Though often not shown in other productions, the changeling boy is a major plot point. Fairy Queen Titania and King Oberon fight over this changeling boy, who was stolen from an Indian king.
“This is a very physical show,” said Black. “Lots of movement, singing, gymnastics, and puppetry.”
Physicality wasn’t the only challenge. Due to lost rehearsal time from snow days as well as many students competing in a national college festival the first week back from break, the cast managed to put the show together in about three weeks.
“It was very grueling time-wise,” senior student stage director Megan Navia says. “I haven’t had much personal time since we got back to school, but it has been very rewarding. I wouldn’t change it for anything else. I am so proud of all the actors and all the hard work they have put into the show.”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” debuted Feb. 20, but you can still catch the performance this weekend.
Thursday through Saturday, performances begin 7:30 p.m. If you can’t make those shows, a matinee is offered on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $10 for students, and can be bought at the MSA/GPC Box Office at Rhynsburger Theatre, or online at theatremissouri.tix.com.