By Uma Ribiero
William Shakespeare’s many plays have been taking the stage everywhere for centuries, becoming more famous with each performance. Hammond’s theatre department, alongside their director, Mrs. Lauren Tobiason, have continued to honor the great playwright with their performance of the famous comedy and timeless love story, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The story has three main plot lines to it, one which follows four lovers, Helena who loves Demetrius, her ex-lover. Demetrius, who wants to marry Hermia, and has her father’s blessing to marry her, and Hermia who wants to be with Lysander. The play then enters the world of the fairies, led by Puck, an anti-cupid of sorts who creates as much mischief between the four lovers as possible, and the fairy king, Oberon, along with his queen, Titania, both of whom are feuding over custody of an Indian child. Finally, it follows the story of the Rude Mechanicals who are putting on a play in order to impress and entertain Theseus, the Duke of Athens, on the evening of his wedding with Hippolyta, the Amazonian queen. These three storylines intertwine as the play progresses, creating much hilarity as the fairy world and human world come together when they obviously should not. While the original play takes place in the woods outside of Athens, the Hammond High Production decided to twist the concept of the play by setting it in Athens, Ohio, in the year 1957, inside of a high school.
The young actors did an amazing job capturing the essence of the various characters in the story, truly reflecting their many hours of rehearsal and their great talent and acting abilities. Senior Katie Rees played Helena with great energy, capturing her quirks and obsessive love of Demetrius perfectly throughout the entire show, and causing a ripple of laughter to come from the audience when she and Kenneth Apana-Korley, who played Demetrius, were on stage together. Others who saw the play seem to agree. “I felt all of the cast did a stellar job…and one of my favorites was definitely Helena. I loved her character and how she was portrayed and the play overall was magnificent,” commented Freshman Cat Ijams.
The hilarious and slightly sad constant rejection of Helena by Demetrius and of Demetrius by Hermia,played by Senior Grace Quade, which is shown in the first few acts was entertaining to watch, as the tragedy of the love that is not returned is subtly overshadowed by the comedic relief of the majority of the characters and the overall storyline. The lively energy and mischievous personality of Puck, played by Senior Kaylee McDonald, never faded throughout the entirety of the play, acting as the narrator and interacting with the audience while also playing the enchanting flute which only added more magic to the entire performance. Freshman Sarah Oyemade loved watching “Puck, Helena and Demetrius, because their personalities were so relatable.”The second plot line in which the fairies play tricks on the human world comes into play when Oberon notices the sticky situation forming between the four lovers, and then requests for Puck to cast a spell on Demetrius to make him love Helena. However, Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, making Lysander love Helena instead. Oberon and Puck then take it upon themselves to right this wrong. The king even goes as far as to play a trick on his queen, which is when the Mechanicals come into play, intertwining with the lovers plot line as well. After seeing the terrible play the Mechanicals (or the AV Club, as they are called in this high school setting) are trying to put on despite their atrocious acting abilities, the mischievous and elusive prankster, Puck turns the face of the play’s lead actor, Nick Bottom, into a donkey’s head. King Oberon then casts a spell on Titania so she would fall in love with the donkey-faced mortal, which would then give him the opportunity to steal her adopted child from her. The meeting of newly-turned donkey, Nick Bottom and Queen Titania makes for some of the most comical parts of the performance. The confident and cocky mechanical Nick Bottom, played by Junior Carlos O’Ryan, definitely allowed for some of the funniest parts of the entire show. Carlos not only played Bottom with great accuracy and hilarity, but he captured the overly confident nature of the character as well. It takes true talent for a great actor to play a character whose main trait is being bad at acting, as is the case with Nick Bottom and his role in most of the storyline. Carlos does a fantastic job of not only playing his character, but also Pyramus, the character that Nick Bottom portrays as well. His many different voices and singing abilities steal the show and put the eyes of the audience on him, and he was definitely a crowd favorite. Freshman Saili Khorjekar commented on the performance, “[Nick Bottom]…was so funny. He had good projection, he got into character so well. I was excited [after seeing him perform] and was like, I need to watch this.”
Ninth grade English teacher Mrs. Goff, who teaches A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is very familiar with the work of Shakespeare, agrees that the cast played the characters and recited the text with accuracy, commenting, “I thought they did an amazing job. I think Oberon, Puck, and Bottom were hysterical and they added a lot to the performance with their acting.”
The presence of Queen Titania, played by Senior Armonie Lane, made the show even more compelling and further enhanced the performance. The strength of the queen’s voice and the beautiful, casual, and seemingly effortless flow and articulation of her words matched the flirtatious and strong-willed personality of the character.
The clash between her and King Oberon, played by Senior Eric Hryniewicz, was presented with great accuracy and conveyed their feud perfectly, as was her chemistry with Bottom in some of the most entertaining acts of the show.
If the actors were nervous, it was impossible to tell, as their powerful voices, perfect articulation of words, and confident stage presence made the performance greatly enjoyable to watch. Despite the old Shakespearean English dialogue, the authentic and developed expressions, emotions and characterization of the actors made the story easy to follow and understand.
The mystical setting, with white fog lightly floating through the air of the stage to emphasize the magic of the fairies and the forest, was a nice visual for the audience, and the theme of the 50s, which was put into action by Ms. Tobiason, made the classic play even more fun to watch. The spin on the setting was refreshing for many, agrees Senior Grayson Linthicum. “I really liked that it was more interactive. They set it in a more modern era and that is more relevant to us than ancient times, so I liked that. And I liked the humor in it, it was really funny…This play was really good [overall] and I liked it a lot more than some of the other ones [I’ve seen].”
Ms. Tobiason and the entire cast and crew put hours into the play, beginning from June, and their hard work was clearly reflected by their performance.
“We auditioned right before break. They practiced their lines over the summer, which was not structured rehearsals. I would say an average of 8-10 hours a week [were put into the show], starting at the beginning of September and the last two weeks [leading up to the show] was 15-18 hours because we’re in technical rehearsals which run longer. Probably [everyone spent] close to 70 hours [rehearsing]”, says Ms. Tobiason, who has been directing plays at Hammond for fifteen years.
Some actors, like Grace Quade, even began rehearsing their lines and studying their characters early on. “Because it was Shakespeare it was really challenging…and learning to dissect the language was a really interesting process…I made sure to memorize my lines over the summer so that while rehearsing I could know them…“I did…research [on my character by] looking back at other performances and the history of the show.”
The quick and quiet movements of the actors and running crew made the transitions very smooth, not at all interfering with the viewing experience of the audience, and the effort of not only the cast, but the crew as well is seen through the set and the technicalities of the play.
“Everyone [in cast and crew] contributes to the creation and the makings of the play somehow and we’re all kind of like the cogs of a fantastical machine…I think everyone did such an amazing job, and it was awesome to see all our hard work put to life, and I’m just so proud of everyone because they all did such a good job,” says 9th Grader Kelly Kujawa, a member of the running crew. The cast and crews’ effort and hard work, as well as the direction of Ms. Tobiason made for a great show.
To be able to recite the lines of old Shakespearean English and put life into the words is true talent, and the actors accomplished just that. The story unfolded with no confusion and all actors delivered their lines with clarity and ease.
Hammond theatre’s flamboyant performance of Shakespeare’s classic comedy of “a night’s accident” was definitely, as Nick Bottom puts it, a “sweet comedy” worth seeing.