WHS students bring laughter, zany antics to Memorial Auditorium with 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
“It is a wild ride, and even if you don’t know Shakespeare, you will still have a good time.”
WORTHINGTON — Love potions, warring fairies and a man with a donkey’s head all come together for madcap hijinks in Worthington High School’s upcoming production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“It’ll be fun and kind of spectacular,” said Eric Parrish, the play’s director, who is also instructor of music and theater at Minnesota West Community and Technical College.
It will also be fast-paced, as it is a version of the original text by William Shakespeare that has been adapted by Lindsay Price to have a running time of around 70 minutes — without eliminating characters or major plotlines.
“Things are just trimmed,” said Parrish, explaining that last year’s one-hour-long production of “A Christmas Carol” garnered such rave reviews that he felt a shorter play would be well-received. As a part of his work toward a graduate degree, he also had to cut a play by Shakespeare down to 20 minutes, so he had experience dealing with stripped-down productions.
The play features two pairs of mismatched human lovers beset by a “helpful” fairy with a love potion, plus a couple of fairy monarchs who may be “on a break” from their relationship but definitely aren’t taking any breaks from their ongoing argument — which ends in hilarious consequences for some local workers determined to stage a very, very amateur dramatic play for an upcoming wedding.
The cast includes 21 characters, and Parrish also has a backstage crew of six students. The characters will be in modern dress, with some variations, as fairies will have a punk style, the royalty will be dressed like the modern royal family in the United Kingdom and the workers will be outfitted like construction workers.
The sets will be simple, with a grassy hill, pillars, abstract trees and paper lanterns, as well as a nine-foot glowing moon.
A comedy classic
It will be Parrish’s first time directing a Shakespeare play, though it’s been a long-time goal of his, and he felt “Midsummer,” with its romantic comedy plot, would be accessible to audiences, even those unaccustomed to Shakespearian dialect.
“I knew we had the talent,” he said, noting that several of his students this year had competed in speech tournaments and could handle the material.
Given the Elizabethan dialect, Parrish first had his students go through something like a Shakespeare boot camp, learning about verse vs. prose, iambic pentameter and scansion — the nuts and bolts of the English language as present in those texts and the performances of those texts. They went through the play line by line, learning how to pronounce any unusual words and asking questions. They also learned how each scene functions within the play.
“I think they have discovered that Shakespeare isn’t just boring words on a page,” Parrish said. “It’s brought it to life for them, and really, that’s my goal. It’s a classic part of our repertoire and our theater canon.
“Shakespeare is meant to be performed, not read,” he added.
“It is a wild ride, and even if you don’t know Shakespeare, you will still have a good time,” said Quinn Benz, a junior, who is portraying the haughty fairy queen Titania in the play.
Benz said she enjoys tapping into that powerful, independent side of herself in her performance.
So does Jonathan Cristobal, a senior, who is playing the fairy king, Oberon.
“He’s very demanding. He wants things done his way, and he’ll definitely do it himself if he has to,” Cristobal said. “He’s fighting with Titania a lot in a few of the scenes.”
He encouraged people to come and watch the play.
Ayana Leovan, a freshman, is playing trickster fairy and occasional love potion distributor Puck.
“He enjoys all of the commotion and all of the running around,” said Leovan, noting that she’s more the responsible type in her own life. “But I feel like it would be fun.”
She’s learned a lot about Shakespearean language through her participation in the play, and how to put her character into motion, too.
“It is really entertaining to watch the characters in action, running around,” Leovan added.
Tanner Gundermann, a senior, is playing Demetrius, one of the humans involved in an awkward love quadrangle that shifts to become even more troublesome when love potions are added to the mix.
Initially, Demetrius loves Hermia, who is mutually in love with Lysander. Meanwhile, Helena loves Demetrius, who despises her.
“He is dangerously in love with Hermia,” Gundermann said. “I just see him as a romantic.”
He encouraged people to see the play.
“Just because it’s Shakespeare doesn’t mean it’s not funny,” he added.
The play starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 and Friday, Nov. 11, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center. Tickets for the production cost $6 for adults and $4 for students. Parrish encouraged people to get their tickets ahead of time.