Rooke’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” dazzles and delights

 Photo courtesy of Jon Crispin  From left to right: Rebekah McBane ’21, Regina Perry ’20, Dale Leonheart ’19, Abigail Carroll ’19, Shante Henderson ’18  and Rosie Xu ’19 performed in the cast of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream in Rooke Theater April 19-22.

Photo courtesy of Jon Crispin

From left to right: Rebekah McBane ’21, Regina Perry ’20, Dale Leonheart ’19, Abigail Carroll ’19, Shante Henderson ’18  and Rosie Xu ’19 performed in the cast of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream in Rooke Theater April 19-22.

BY EMMA MARTIN ’20

This weekend the Mount Holyoke College theatre department presented their popular rendition of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” with four performances in Rooke Theater. The show, directed by Noah Tuleja, featured strong acting against the backdrop of an extravagant, whimsical set with creative costuming and an unforgettable soundtrack.

The play is one of Shakespeare’s earlier comedies and presents a collision of real and magical words. The storyline of fairy queen Titania (Grace Brunson ’19) and her lover Bottom (Dale Leonheart ’19) mirrors that of the four real-life lovers, Lysander (Caledonia Wilson ’19), Helena (Clemence Lecart ’18), Hermia (Julia Cole ’19) and Demetrius (Amy Welch ’18), whose confusing antics in the woods are the plot’s driving force. Puck (Martha Kent ’21) is the mischievous provocateur behind the action, pulling the strings with his “magic flower” potion to make the sets of lovers mistakenly fall for the wrong people. 

This divide between the human and supernatural world was represented in the costuming choices for the production. The four real-life lovers were dressed in familiar 1940s garb while other characters — Bottom and his acting troupe — were dressed in traditional early modern clothes. Other magical characters: Titania, her fairies and husband Oberon (Nikki Wei ’19), wore creative, colorful and interpretive costumes that included wild wigs and clashing patterns. 

Welch played Demetrius in the show and is a theatre major. “Playing Demetrius was so much fun,” said Welch. “He is such a wacky, young man filled with sexual energy and drive and amoureuse, that it is truly what drives him through the show.” 

Welch has played major roles in many of the theatre department’s productions (including Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”) and loves becoming her characters. “I knew there was a reason Noah cast me specifically to play Demetrius so I had to trust myself that the crazy things I was throwing out there from the start were exactly what he was looking for,” said Welch. “After a while, I even forgot I was walking like him! I would often walk into the dressing room to change between scenes and realized how I entered and my posture and I literally laughed out loud because it was totally still completely Demetrius!”

The show also featured a striking soundtrack. Modern music such as David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust,” Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town” and The Arctic Monkey’s “Arabella” accompanied decisive moments, adding to the production’s zany, modern edge. The entire cast joined in for an unexpected but entertaining dance number to Alice Merton’s “Roots” at the end of the show, finishing with a true bang. 

Stage Manager Katy Gore ’20 was responsible for making sure the show was a success from backstage. “During the show I am calling all the cues,” she said. “So every light, sound, projection thing that happens is something that I’m calling.” She explained her role in the show as “the person who works directly with the director and communicates with the production team, the designers, the cast and crew and sort of facilitates communication between all of those groups of people.” 

The fantastical set featured projections onto a tree with balloons for branches, hanging lights to resemble stars and an enormous glowing moon. To heighten the comedy and action, cast members were constantly in motion, moving through the audience, climbing onto balconies by ladders and even hiding beneath the stage. 

“I think the acting was a real stand out to me,” said audience member Ricki Lovett ’20. “The comedic timing that all of the actors had and the way they played off of each other kept the whole audience laughing through the entire show. Some of the added things really kept it interesting to me as someone who has read the play and seen the show done a few different ways.” Lovett noted Puck’s sailing around on a scooter and pulling down the moon with a rope as some of her favorite moments. “I think the acting choices were fabulous, I think the set was beyond beautiful ... and I think that for the most part the costumes were fabulous.” 

“People should come see this show because it’s got something for everybody,” said Gore.  “It’s hilarious, the actors are crazy talented, the set is really whimsical and just exciting ... it might make you love Shakespeare, and if you already love Shakespeare, then you’ll still love it.” The cast concluded the show with a final matinee performance this past Sunday. 

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