It’s perhaps William Shakespeare’s most accessible play and certainly his most magical.
Seaton Secondary’s 27th Street Theatre Company presents Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream May 31 to June 9.
“It’s really accessible. It doesn’t deal with really complex themes. And I just love Shakespeare so I do Shakespeare whenever possible,” laughed teacher and director Lana O’Brien. “We had just the exact right number of people to do this play.”
Written in 1595-1596, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is split into three separate yet intertwined storylines and primarily takes place in the forest.
Shakespeare’s classic kicks off with Duke Theseus and his betrothed Amazon Queen Hippolyta. However, trouble is brewing in the kingdom as two sets of lovers quarrel.
As their storyline progresses, so to do the trials and tribulations of a group of blue-collar workers turned actors in the midst of preparing a production for the royal wedding.
And, in the forest, where A Midsummer Night’s Dream unfolds, fairies meddle in the lives of those who wander into the woods. But these aren’t your typical fairies, O’Brien said.
“They’re not the tooth fairy,” O’Brien said. “Our fairies and magical creatures are not what you’d expect. They’re very earthy.”
While they may be mischievous, O’Brien said they are far from scary and instead add an impactful comedic element to the production.
“I love it. For one, it’s beautiful and it’s a challenge. There are so many special effects and magic,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien loves it so much, in fact, that it’s the third-and-a-half time she’s directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“The first was as a new teacher, in Invermere, then I did The Mechanicals as a stand-alone piece for Shakespeare festival in the early 2000s. We did a DooWop rock musical version at Seaton in 2009, and we’re super excited to do yet another rendition,” O’Brien said. “Each time we do a show, we learn something new. That’s part of what is so exciting about teaching theatre. We learn as much as the kids do.”
Armed with a cast of roughly 35 students in Grades 9 through 12, A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been in the works since a one-month acting intensive at the beginning of the semester.
“While the sets, costumes, and tech are stunningly supportive of the story, ultimately, the language is the key. We spend an inordinate amount of time working on articulation and diction. If the audience can’t understand the story, there is no point in all the rest of the theatre magic,” O’Brien said. “So often you’re too focused on the show we really don’t have time to teach acting.”
However, OBrien said, her class is dedicated to the craft and many also appear in other productions throughout town.
“There’s a bunch of kids, myself included, in Jesus Christ Superstar. They’re not just doing theatre here,” O’Brien said, noting that her students also recently appeared in Powerhouse Theatre’s Calendar Girls and Lights of Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast.
During the annual Goodwill Shakespeare festival, which O’Brien hosts alongside her fellow drama teachers, the Seaton class had a chance to perform a pared down, 25-minute version of the production.
“Now they have to relearn all of their lines,” O’Brien laughed, noting that they had to forget a good portion of the production for that Goodwill Shakespeare festival performance.
However, O’Brien said, given the students’ dedication and practice, they’re ready to bring A Midsummer Night’s Dream to life.
“Everyone will love it,” O’Brien said. “It’s colourful, magical and fun.”
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs at Seaton Secondary May 31 to June 9 at 7:30 p.m., no shows on Sunday and Monday, plus a 2 p.m. matinee June 9. Tickets are available for $15 by calling 250-542-3361 ext. 2227 or by visiting the Seaton main office during school hours.