By MARY NOBLES HANCOCK
This month the Mountain Brook High School theatre department will be performing the William Shakespeare classic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
First written in the mid to late 1500s, the play is often attributed as one of Shakespeare’s most famous and produced plays.
“It is a romantic comedy that combines three plot lines,” said director Jesse Tilton. “The first deals with the tribulations of Athenian couples that are in love, the second is of fairy mischievousness and the third is the comical performance of the play-within-a-play by amateur actors.”
Filling in after longtime theatre teacher Pat Yates retired last year, Tilton decided to take his new position at Mountain Brook and run with it.
“As a teacher, I felt that classics are essential for preparing our students for college and for making them well-rounded individuals,” he said. “This is my first year here at Mountain Brook High School, so when I found out that we hadn’t done a Shakespearean show in at least 14 years, I knew I wanted to make performing one a top priority.”
“Midsummer is special because it is one of our first collaborative works with our new theater teacher, Jesse Tilton,” said junior Sloan Giess, who is playing the Mechanical Snug the Joiner. “We’ve really loved working with him, and I think his directing has really taken this old show to new heights.”
The play’s main story line is that of the star-crossed Athenian lovers. The two couples are compiled of Helena (played by senior Elizabeth Perkinson), Hermia (junior Allie Cannon), Demetrius (senior Matthew Powell) and Lysander (senior Mark Hammontree). The play follows them on their twisted journey filled with love, confusion, and plenty of interventions from the ever-mischievous fairy, Puck (junior DeeDee Joehl). Puck is just one of an entire troupe of fairies led by King Oberon (senior Spiro Gerontakis) and his queen Titania (junior Tamara Dimant).
The play also features a hilarious group of mechanicals who are hired to perform a play-within-a-play as Theseus and Hippolyta (seniors Reid Fravert and Sara Anne Stringfellow). The comedic group is led by Peter Quince (junior Drew Willoughby) and Nick Bottom (senior Joey Weed). However, the group’s play rehearsals are thwarted when Puck turns Bottom’s head into a donkey’s. Upon seeing him, Titania falls in love and she and her fairies dote on him nonstop.
The play has the added element of being performed in the steampunk style, which is a cross between Victorian era and the more industrial features of turn-of-the-century innovations like the steam engine.
“We’re playing up Shakespeare’s notion that the Athenians were urban (caught up in an artificial style of life) and in desperate need of a paradigm shift provided by living in nature,” Tilton said. “To help emphasize the difference, the gears, metals, leathers and dark colors of the Victorian-feeling attire of the Athenians will be in stark contrast to the soft, flowing fabrics and cool colors of the fairies.”
Tilton added that the acting will be top-notch. “There is so much talent at Mountain Brook that you can quickly get lost in the show and then suddenly you think, ‘Wait a minute, I’m at a high school production ?!’” he said. “It’s easy to forget that these are high school students and not professionals, even though they are doing an amazing job performing material that professionals find difficult.”
Assistant director and senior Emily Siegal said that the best part of it is watching it all come together: “As assistant director, I stand on the outside looking in, and it is incredible to watch these amazing actors work!”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Mountain Brook High School
Black Box Theatre
Thurs., Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.
Sun., Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.
Mon., Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.
Purchase tickets by calling 414-3842 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seating is limited.