The wit and potency of William Shakespeare’s words and characters in his thirty seven plays have solidified his place in the tradition and history of theatre. Drury University theatre department’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, however, is anything but traditional.
For starters, Midsummer is the first theatre department main stage show since 2012’s Production of The Little Dog Laughed to be directed by students rather than faculty. Not one, but two, Drury theatre seniors, Lucas Nelson and Keith Taveras, tackled the Bard’s comedy of mismatched lovers for their senior capstone project to complete their respective degrees. Taveras and Nelson also did lighting design for the production, and also act in the show.
The March main stage show has customarily been performed in the Studio Theatre in Springfield Hall, with the April show put up in Wilhoit Theatre in Breech Business School. Instead of either of these two spaces, Nelson and Taveras sought out a different venue to suite the interactive, immersive experience for the audience they envisioned. For the first time in Drury history, a theatre production is put on in The Findlay Student Center Ballroom.
Senior theatre, graphic design, and writing major Kaley Etzkorn designed the set for the FSC Ballroom, and like her directors also performs in Midsummer. “I’ve designed [theatrical sets] before, but creating a set for a non-theatrical space has been a fun challenge to say the least. That, and because it’s done ‘in the round’, I had to create a stage space that could be compatible with an audience on all sides,” Etzorn said.
In terms of casting, customary casting was also tossed to the wind. Several characters were double casting, with one actor playing multiple roles. This production also opted for gender bending, with women playing traditional male characters and vise-versa. Senior theater and arts administration major Madison Morgan portrays Lysandre, originally written as the male “Lysander”, one of the main lovers that the plot focuses on. “It’s an interesting challenge because a lot of having to change all the pronouns in the show, also playing the romantic opposite of another woman which I’ve never done…I really, really enjoy the role it’s really fun,” Morgan said.
Taveras and Nelson’s vision of Midsummer also features original music, storytelling through dance and movement, and an opportunity for the audience to get in on the action. Patrons have the opportunity to secure seats on the floor, with the actors interacting with them throughout. “The way it’s lit, we see everybody all the time, including the audience. People on the floor are going to get talked to a lot.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will run through the weekend, with performances Friday March 3rd and Saturday March 4th as 7 PM, with an additional 12:30 PM matinee on Saturday. Tickets are $3 for Drury students/faculty/staff. They can be purchased at the door, or at the box office in Breech Business School open from 1 PM to 2 PM, or calling 417-873-7255.