IN PREPARING to present Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Armstrong theatre professor Dr. Peter Mellen and his students are staying true to the language Shakespeare used. But they're not subscribing to any particular time period.
“We’re going Three Stooges about it,” says Mellen, “in that we’re really trying to be true to the fluff comedy that it is.”
And a comedy it is. Shakespeare’s classic tale centers around four Athenian youths in a love rectangle of sorts. With well-meaning intentions from Athen’s duke and future duchess and mischievous manipulations by the forest’s fairies, the four are swept into a night of mistaken love, cat-fights, and the general message that you shouldn’t experiment with drugs, even if they are applied in your sleep by a revenge-seeking minion.
Originally slotted to be in the Jenkins Theatre, Midsummer was forced to be relocated due to continuing construction efforts in Jenkins Hall. On top of that was the show’s short turnaround, with only thirty days between casting and opening night. Mellen takes the challenges in stride, saying that “it’s forced us to be more creative and take more chances in a smaller space.”
The cast seems to embrace this attitude, each taking their own difficulties and tackling them head-on. This will be Alfred Pierce’s first dance with Shakespeare as he plays the role of Lysander, one of the four lovers.
“The language is the hardest part, but the rhythm that it’s written in helps,” says Pierce. “Even though it’s Shakespeare, it’s down to earth and there’s nothing that’s incomprehensible or that you won’t enjoy.”
James Grieco, playing Demetruis, finds more pain in his character’s actions, rather than his language.
“The hard part is the moment he announces his love for Helena, even though he’s wanted nothing to do with her since the beginning,” notes Grieco. “He even admits to having first loved Hermia, but then does a complete one-eighty.”
Tiffany Barnhardt, who plays Hermia and is working on technical aspects of the production as well, is focusing on how to portray a character she never expected to play. “I’m trying to work on her feistiness,” she says.”She’s little, but she can handle herself and isn’t scared of too much.”
So what makes this production different from all the movies and other versions done?
“Ours is funnier,” Mellen answers. “Trust me, I’ve seen other shows. This isn’t a chin-scratcher, you’re just going to be laughing out loud.”
Midsummer Night’s DreamWhen: Sept. 25-27 and Oct. 2-4 at 7:30 p.m., matinee Sept. 28 at 3 p.m. Where: Chinese Theatre in the Armstrong Center. Cost: $10. AASU staff, faculty, and students admitted free of charge. Info: www.finearts.armstrong.edu