By Sydney Hakes
Shakespeare made its way back to a SUNY Plattsburgh stage for the first time in six years. “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” premiered Feb. 17 in the Black Box Theatre in the John Myers Fine Arts Building.
Director Mason Barber has been dreaming about this show since his freshman year. A double major in theater and music, Barber dissected the script and sewed it back together with his own threads of modernity and humor.
“It is rewarding to be able to transfer the images and thoughts from your head to actualization on the stage,” Barber said. “I really wanted to update the show for a modern audience. I think that Shakespeare lends itself to be edited and imagined in a new way because you would never be able to fully replicate what Shakespeare had envisioned. The only way to keep Shakespeare alive is to make it fresh and new.”
The music choices were a standout addition to the 400-year-old play. Pop-filled and feminine, they ranged from Britney Spears to Dolly Parton to Fifth Harmony.
Barber’s intention was to assist the dialogue with music. For example, everytime sex is implied between characters, rose petals are thrown and The Turtles “Happy Together” blares from the speakers.
Barber, who is also the president of the College Theatre Association, stressed the accessibility of the play. The Shakespearean old English can be foreign to a modern ear, so incorporating all of those new elements assisted the audience with staying engaged in the story.
Like many campus events, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” was postponed from fall 2021, to this past weekend. This setback resulted in five actors having to be recast, in a show where all of the twelve actors have valued roles and lengthy dialogue.
Luke Geddies, an adolescent education major, was one of the recast actors.
“Mason asked me to audition and I’ve always loved Shakespeare, so that was what really drew me to this production. Mason’s view of turning something old fashioned into a new energy was really exciting,” Geddies said.
The cast is as diverse as can be found on the Plattsburgh campus. Most are not theatre majors, but come from all vocations and years. Some, like theater and theatrical technology major Angel Hammie, have extensive experience on stage.
“This show came full circle for me. My freshman year I acted in ‘She Kills Monsters’ where I played an elf, so to be here as a senior playing fantasy characters in what might be my last college acting role has been notable,” Hammie said.
Like other cast members, Hammie played multiple roles, often gender-bending the original characters.
For Will Corley, a biomedical science major with a minor in chemistry and neurobiology, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is his first involvement in theater since high school.
“I have terrible stage fright,” Corley said. “But to take on a role like Lysander who is so prestigious helped me express myself in ways I haven’t before. It was an amazing experience.”
Bryn Walsh is a nursing major and the treasurer of the CTA. She emphasized her enjoyment of working on a set with everyone.
“The balanced dynamic of everyone has been a huge benefit,” Walsh said. “I was drawn to the show because it’s a less depressing Shakespeare play, it’s actually very fun. Once I was here and rehearsing, it was more fun and less work.”
All of the cast stressed the great relationships they built together, specifically in the three weeks leading up to the show. If three weeks to prepare for a two hour runtime sounds challenging, that’s because it is. Although the beginning of their spring semester has been dedicated to reading scripts and rehearsing, they all maintained high spirits. They even joked that they have “either been doing the show for three months or three weeks.”
The high energy and unique perspective of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” kicked off the spring 2022 theater lineup with a big stage to fill.