By Tori Bachman-Johnson
Here are just a few of the costumes designed by senior Hannah Davis: Meet Titania played by Shannon Brunk; Peaseblossom played by Keisha Tyler and Mustardseed played by Allison Damron. (Photos by senior Art major Sarah Yost.)
“The course of true love never did run smooth.” Shakespeare’s character Lysander knew this well, and after the Spring Break, Georgetown theatre patrons can learn the lesson, too.
On March 27, 28 and 29, and April 3, 4 and 5, Georgetown College Maskrafters will present Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” All shows begin at 8 p.m. in the Ruth Pearce Wilson Lab Theatre, corner of College and Mulberry streets.
The play has been on Director George McGee’s “bucket list,” and is finally becoming a reality with the help of theatre department professors Ed Smith and Dathan Powell.
Though Smith was able to summarize the play in a sentence – “How a series of couples, from the king and queen of the fairies to young lovers, resolve their differences through a series of transformations and reversals” – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” can get a bit confusing for the audience. However, the script has been cut down to under two hours, and according to Smith, the plot is “no more messy than ‘Star Wars’.” A viewing tip? Focus on the couples as they are rearranged throughout the play.
While following the onslaught of plot twists may present a challenge for the audience, the actors have one of their own: Shakespeare’s language.
Some may take to it “like a duck to water, versus others like oil on water,” McGee said. Though it can be a challenge to understand their lines, reading out-loud has been quite helpful for the actors, adding dimension and life to the parts. “It’s easier to understand when you act than when you read,” said freshman Dominique Higdon, who plays Helena. And “once you figure out what you’re saying, you know how to say it,” said Smith.
The set presents another challenge. With the characters constantly moving from setting to setting, Powell has been hard at work constructing a set that will communicate these changes to the audience. “All elements will be visible, but the audience may not know what they’re looking at right away,” Powell said.
Despite the complicated plot and language, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of the most entertaining and accessible of Shakespeare’s works, according to McGee and Smith. The comedy has something for everyone, and is a good place to start for someone who has never seen Shakespeare performed before. The playwright makes fun of actors who don’t know their lines and nobility gets their comeuppance. There are also fairies and other elements of magic and the unknown. When it comes down to it, “Shakespeare tells a mean story,” Smith said.
The themes of the play include identity and metamorphosis – as Smith put it, “How do you ever know who you are? In the beginning, characters are sure of their own identities and who they love, but things get mixed up along the way,” he explained. Smith compared the play to a road movie. As the characters move from a city setting deeper into the woods, they begin to discard the rules and norms attached to civilization.
McGee, Smith and Powell have had the help of two Georgetown alumni – James Hamblin (‘97) and Parker Reed (‘02). Hamblin, who has been working in central Kentucky as a professional actor, watches the rehearsals and speaks to the actors about their motivation, among other things. A dramaturg who earned his MFA in Staging Shakespeare at the University of Exeter (England), Reed has the role of explaining what lines of the script mean.
Lexington’s Hannah Davis, who’s made a name for herself as a costume designer, is doing the honors for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as her senior project. Davis also designed the costumes for the Lyric Theatre Society’s production of “The Secret Marriage” last semester.
For the cast and crew of “MND,” bonding time may be one of the most valuable factors of working on the play. The group is made up of students from many different majors, fraternities, sororities and background who come together to make the play happen, and with all that time spent together, it is inevitable that they will make connections.
“When you start spending two to three hours a night with people, you start building relationships that will last a long time,” said McGee. McGee, Smith and Powell are no strangers to this: according to McGee, all three met their wives at theatre-related activities, including a cast party and a ballet.
“I’m not implying that any marriages will come out of this show…” he said, speaking of the student actors, although there may be wedding bells in store for some of the characters.
No matter the course true love takes in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the play promises to be entertaining. “As an actor, director, and designers, it doesn’t get any better than Shakespeare,” said director McGee, who doubles as chair of the Theatre & Performance Studies department.
Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for students for the six performances (March 27-29, April 3-5). For reservations, call The Store at Georgetown College – (502) 863-8134. Best parking for the Lab Theatre is in the Georgetown Baptist Church lot across Mulberry Street.