"A Midsummer Night's Dream" on Wallman Stage in April

Thursday, March 06, 2014

To Theatre students, making sense of Shakespeare’s language can be a frightening, yet exciting challenge. 

“I have been waiting for four years for this chance,” says senior Theatre major Tyler Kovar. The Marion County native, plays the iconic Puck, the master of mischief, in the Fairmont State University production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on stage in April.

The production runs April 4, 5, 10, 11, and 12 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 6, at 2 p.m. in Wallman Hall Theatre. Tickets are $10 and go on sale on Monday, March 24, at the Box Office at (304) 367-4240. The cast is also presenting school day performances for local schools in Wallman Hall on April 8 and 9 at 9:30 a.m. Teachers who are interested in bringing their classes to a day-time performance should contact Dr. Francene Kirk at (304) 367-4170 or fkirk@fairmontstate.edu.

The production is directed by Dr. Francene Kirk, Abelina Suarez Professor of Communication and Fine Arts, and she hopes to draw in the audience by connecting them to the conflicts in the play. 

“I am always concerned that a modern audience will not buy in to the idea that Hermia’s father has the power to keep her from marrying Lysander. Then, one day we were talking about the lovers’ story in a class, and one student said the story reminded him of an episode of ‘Jerry Springer,’ ” Kirk said.

This simple statement spurred the director and the artistic team to consider ways to bring in elements from reality television into the show. 

“We are not recreating a reality show on stage; we are simply using some simple elements to act as a frame for the show. At the beginning of the performance, the audience will see a character watching reality television. As he falls asleep and begins to dream, his dream will come to life on stage,” she said.

Several students are working on the production as part of their capstone projects for graduation. Kurtis Dennison, a Theatre major from Clarksburg, is designing the costumes. Lillian Gaylord is serving as the dramaturg, and Lakyn Arrick is serving as the education outreach coordinator. Both are working on the production as part of their capstone experience.  Among other things, Gaylord and Arrick will be creating a lobby display that will help audiences understand the historical context for the story. Taylor Riffle, a Theatre Education major, is serving as the assistant to the set designer.   

Kirk, Dennison, Gaylord, Arrick and Riffle spent a day researching the play in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The Folger Library houses an extensive collection of artifacts related to Shakespeare’s life, work and the many famous productions of his plays. The collection includes rare texts. The students learned how to handle these texts from the Folger staff.

“We started talking in our design meeting about what life might be like in a post-war, post-climate-change world. The text suggests that Theseus has defeated Hippolyta in war, and that the conflict between Oberon and Titania has caused the weather to go haywire. I started thinking about how these people might have created clothing from anything they could find, as well as how to give the costumes a timeless look. My designs have also been influenced by the drawings I saw at the Folger Library. I want to give a nod to past productions by giving the costumes some elements from Ancient Greece and Elizabethan England while still keeping the post-war, post-climate-change theme,” Dennison said.

Faculty designer Troy Snyder said part of the challenge for creating a set for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is to suggest multiple locations while giving the environment an “organic vs. inorganic feel.” “Found objects” will come into play. Snyder and his students are painting a fabric backdrop that is inspired by the works of Georgia O’Keefe and Vincent Van Gogh.

One of the plots of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” features two “star-crossed lovers” and is often compared to Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”; but while the plots of the two stories may seem similar the outcomes are not.  

In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Hermia (played by Madison Whiting) is not permitted to marry Lysander (played by Craig Birkmeyer), the man she loves. At the start of the play, Hermia’s father Egeus (Troy Snyder) brings her before the duke, Theseus (Jerico Offutt), and demands that she marries Demetrius (Justin Wilkins), the man of his choice, or be sentenced to death, according to Athenian law.

While plotting their escape from Athens, the lovers tell Helena (Bailey Kershner) of their plan. Helena is in love with Demetrius, and in hopes of winning his favor, she tells Demetrius of the lovers’ plan to flee Athens. Helena and Demetrius follow Hermia and Lysander into the woods.

Meanwhile, the fairy world is in turmoil. Oberon (Brandon Lee), the fairy king, is angry with his queen, Titania (Lakyn Arrick), because she will not relinquish a child servant to him.  He summons his servant Puck (Tyler Kovar) to play a trick on Titania.  When the lovers enter the woods, they become part of the fairy world’s conflict.

In yet a third storyline, a group of common working men has also come to the forest to rehearse a play that is to be performed for the duke on his wedding day to Hippolyta (Cherie Helsley). Among these workmen is an over-eager thespian called Bottom (Gary Hayes) who is drawn into the fairy world as part of Puck’s antics. 

Rounding out the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are Rebekah Ginsberg, Brandon Rose, Lilli Kail, Isaac Covey, Kelsey Ash, Pamela Chatman, Kelly Blake, Michael Byrd, Ingrid L. Poole and Anthony Edmond. The stage manager is Kaici Lore. The lights will be designed by Dan Fynaardt; Tyler Kovar will design the sound.