With a few tasteful curse words and perfectly-timed improv lines, the cast of the Dickinson Community Players (DCP) shined in their performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this past weekend, April 14 and 15.
Todd Sweeney, a junior double-majoring in English and psychology, and his assistant director Kelly Friedel, a sophomore double-majoring in geological sciences and classical civilization, united with their colorful and talented cast of underclassmen and graduate students to interpret and expand the play’s source material, creating a hilarious and entertaining show.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a play by Shakespeare that surrounds four Athenians — Demetrius, played by James Panchookian, an undeclared freshman, Lysander, played by Paul Ciesluk, a junior majoring in environmental studies, Hermia, played by Nora Kirshnitz, a freshman double-majoring in environmental studies and theatre and Helena, played by Kristen Scanlon, a junior double-majoring in business administration and political science — who run away into the forest in pursuit of love. When the faerie court interferes with their unions, hijinks and miscommunication ensue.
The story’s heart rested in the timing of both the in-text jokes and physical comedy, as well as the clear enunciation of the Shakespearean language. In both regards, the members of DCP performed above and beyond. After canceling their 2 p.m. performance due to an emergency, it was obvious that the performers wanted to leave it all on the stage.
When asked what it takes to create an engaging and successful performance, Sweeney had only glowing reviews for the other members of the production.
“Frankly, [it requires] just having a lot of trust in your cast,” Sweeney said. “I’m very, very lucky to have such a talented cast.”
Although the source material provides a lot of comedic opportunity, the decision to include more modern-toned bits and lines — including jokes about mac and cheese, over-eager fiancés and sporadic curses thrown in at the discretion of the cast — livened up the already exciting play. The faerie court was a huge source of these insertions, including the faerie King Oberon, played by Jordan Rosenburg, a freshman majoring in business administration and the faerie servant Puck, played by Catriona Huber, a senior majoring in electrical engineering.
“I encouraged them to go absolutely nuts with whatever they wanted to do,” Sweeny said. “And they did.”
The play ran for an hour and a half with no intermission, but audiences remained engaged throughout. Isabelle Homan, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, had nothing but positive words to say once the show came to an end.
“I came because I have friends in the show but I was really impressed with everyone’s performance, honestly,” Homan said. “I’m not really a big Shakespeare fan, but the way they used body language to help portray the meaning of the lines worked really well and created interesting backstories for the characters.”
The supporting cast also did a wonderful job of balancing antiquity with modernity. Carefully placed jokes and stage interactions were sprinkled throughout, things that the performers worked on with Sweeney and Friedel since the beginning of the show’s production.
The play was truly a labor of love according to Nina Collavo, a first-year graduate student studying English, who played faerie Queen Tatiana, but labor that really paid off. After a month and a half of rehearsals where they cut down the original script, blocked every scene and folded in the cast’s personality, the members of DCP felt both relieved and gratified when the final show came to a close.
“It was very rewarding to work together with such creative and talented people,” Collavo said. “We created a show I was very proud of.”
The message throughout it all — beyond keeping track of where you put down your magical flower — was supporting local, smaller organizations. Not only is DCP one of the handfuls of student-run theatre productions on campus, but the event was also in support of local nonprofit, GiGi’s Playhouse, a Down syndrome awareness organization that aims to foster a positive and accepting learning environment for those with Down syndrome and other developmental diagnoses.
In terms of local theatre, however, Collavo highlights the similarly wonderful determination of both the nonprofit organization and companies like DCP.
“What I love most about local theatre is that it’s very tenacious,” Collavo said. “Whether it is supported or not, we will keep on going. We are very stubborn!”
Sweeney agreed with this sentiment, also noting theatre as one of the oldest mediums.
“There’s a lot of specialties to it that other mediums just can’t get, and there’s a certain amount of liveliness that I think is really special,” Sweeney said.
DCP does a “straight” (nonmusical) and musical show every semester, with proceeds going to a different charity each time. If you’d like to support the DCP, follow them on Instagram @dcpbingham or catch their production of “Firebringer” at 8 p.m. on April 21 and 22 and 2 p.m. on April 23.