A Midsummer Night’s Dream may very well be one of the Bard’s lighter fares, but the commitment and virtuosity demonstrated by the theater program while enacting this effervescent comedy last month was certainly no breezy undertaking. Involving nearly 50 students in every aspect of the production—from back stage crew to technical support to poster design to acting—Midsummer was a truly a monumental production. Co-directed by theater faculty Aimee Michel and Karen Beaumont, the play featured choreography by faculty member Wendy Shifrin and alumna Annakeara Stinson ‘04. The beloved “Mechanicals” (characters who present an outrageous and hysterical play within the play) had the opportunity to work with internationally acclaimed theater and comedy artist Tomás Kubínek. Also joining the production ranks were alumnus George Veale ‘98, who served as costume designer, and staff members Jason Goldman and Victor McQuiston, who designed the lighting and sets.
“It’s always remarkable to see just how many elements need to come together in order to bring a production to fruition,” said theater faculty member Karen Beaumont. Much like the play itself, which unravels several stories and stitches them all together, many of the actors, designers, and technicians worked independently of one another and brought all of the pieces together in the final week. For many, it was the first time they had experienced each other’s work. “The students, designers, and staff truly did an exceptional job on stage and behind the scenes,” continued Beaumont.
One such place where the magic was made out of sight was in the recently revamped costume shop, a venue that has boasted a flurry of activity since the start of the semester. “My vision coming into this project was to build everything from scratch as a way to establish our permanent costume collection and create pieces that could be used in future productions,” said costume designer George Veale. Along with his assistant, sophomore Holly Chayes, Veale took on the colossal task of constructing over 120 articles of clothing by hand—from shoes to wigs to headdresses to jewelry, and everything in between. In response to growing interest in the Simon’s Rock theater program, Veale is currently teaching a costume design module that will expand to an upper level course next semester.
For senior Abigail Edber—who played dual roles as Titania and Hippolyta—Midsummer was an opportunity to exercise some of the knowledge she gained abroad while studying at the London Dramatic Academy (LDA) last semester. “At LDA, we studied Shakespeare extensively and learned the process of interpreting his text,” said Edber, who also served as a language tutor for the production. “What I love most about Shakespeare is that there is no subtext in his work. Everything you need to discover as an actor from thought to breath to stage directions is present right there in his words.” So what happens when a character like Hippolyta says few words? “Shakespeare is inspired by mythology, and in including the story of this Amazonian queen, he has presented a woman who came from a very different culture than that of Athens. Hippolyta’s silence says so much about who she is: A stranger in a strange land.” When approaching her dual roles as Hippolyta and Fairy Queen Titania, Edber did extensive research into the matriarchal society of the Amazonian culture. She began to see Titania as the alter ego of Hippolyta: “Titania is wild, strong willed, free, and uninhibited. She represents all that Hippolyta might have been if she had not become enamored of Theseus and ultimately, captured by him.” She continued with a knowing smile, “But then again, I suppose that is the madness of love. Hippolyta might not love Theseus the politician, but she can’t help but love Theseus the man.” Just like the play suggests, “the course of true love never did run smooth.’” Fortunately for all of us watching from our seats in the McConnell Theater, there were plenty of opportunities to marvel and celebrate along the way.