Oberon (Joe Fernandez) uses the magic flower on Lysander (Conor Shaw) in a scene from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
If you enjoy Shakespeare, vibrant colors and music that’s reminiscent of the ’80s then Saddleback College may have the right show for you. Opening this past weekend, this Saddleback production takes a modern twist on one of the world’s most popular plays, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The play opens in modern day Athens surrounding the crisis of young love and a father’s disapproval. It is in this central problem that sparks the beginning of the turmoil and confusion that follows for the entirety of the show. This classic story transitions from three groups of characters which include a combination of four lovers, Athenian craftsmen and mischievous faeries. It is in these characters interactions that bring about the central problem and its ultimate solution.
The story follows the story of these young lovers as the mischievous sprite, Puck wreaks havoc on the lovers lives with a magic flower that causes a person to fall in love with the first person they see. The story is in constant flux between a dream world and reality, creating diversity in both the set and characters.
A big challenge that the actors faced was being able to truly understand the language and to bring it to life. Gabrielle Jackson, the actress who portrayed Puck, acknowledges that since the play was set in the present, that it was important to make the speech modern.
“The most challenging thing was to make the speech modern,” said Jackson. “ You really have to find a sense of what it means today and what it meant then.”
Along with the dialogue, the actors displayed an exceptional amount of movement. Much of the movement essential to the embodiment of the character. This was specifically characteristic to the faeries in play, especially in the characterization of Puck.
“I did a lot of movement exercises and really tried to get in touch with animalistic side of myself,” said Jackson. “It’s such a stylized character in the way you move, act and react—the movement was a huge part of it.”
Despite the plays entertaining dialogue and stylized characters, it was the combination of the set, lighting, music, costumes and makeup that brought the play and its characters to life.
The combination of these elements took a group effort from the cast and crew. What was surprising is that the vibrant stage makeup was done by the actors themselves. Every show the actors completed their own makeup, helping each other in the process.
“Every theater production I’ve been in, they either teach you to your own makeup or they tell you how to do it,” said Meredith Turner, the actress who portrayed Helena. “I’ve never had somebody do my makeup every night.”
Along with the productions physical elements, it was Director Robert Prior’s deep and complex understanding of the play that helped refine and develop his ultimate vision for it. Turner recounts that Prior was there along every step of the way, in order to create the production he envisioned.
“Robert has been so involved in every single step of it—he’s made some of the faerie costumes, painted every single one them and even made Bottom’s donkey head,” said Turner. “I honestly think he’s a creative genius.”
Assistant Director Maxwell T. Colburn also praises Prior in his ability to tap into plays subtleties and its diversity in tone. Through this understanding, both Maxwell and Prior were able to recognize and present to the audience that this story isn’t just a comedy.
“It’s a comedy and it’s very funny, but it’s also f****** dark sometimes,” said Maxwell. “It is not this light-hearted romp that a lot of people make it.”
The play is diverse in its theme, but also complex within its different tones. Maxwell says that the one thing he loved most was that Prior was able to make it sexy.
“[Prior] made it f****** sexy and that’s the thing—it’s a play about sex,” said Maxwell. “It’s no accident that there is a character named Tit [Titania] and a character named Puck—that is no accident. Shakespeare doesn’t make accidents.”
The production opened Thursday, Nov 5. and closed Sunday, Nov. 8.