The songs of birds and crickets echo across Caswell Hall as Hippolyta, played by Cassidy ’13, sweeps on-stage in a black gown. She waits anxiously for her husband on the steps of a plantation-era home, fanning herself with a fury. Suddenly, a young lady being dragged by an elderly man in a topcoat enters, shrieking loudly until he shoves her to the ground.
Since the first week of School, when auditions began for this year’s All-School Play—William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—the cast and crew have worked tirelessly, dedicating countless hours to perfecting each syllable so that none of Shakespeare’s humor would be lost in translation. After months of hard work, the show opened on Nov. 3.
Like many other Marlborough plays, this interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic was unusual, to say the least. Schuyler ’12, Zena ’12 and Sydney ’14 expertly played the part of Puck, the devilish fairy; together these girls hissed, crawled, contorted, swung and did impossible stunts, all whilst wearing unitards.
Although the play was originally set in Athens, Greece, this version took place in Athens, Georgia, in the swamps of the deep South in the post-Civil War era. Costumes included enormous hoop skirts and dashing military uniforms. Performing Arts instructor Gleason Bauer, who directed the play, said she wanted to approach Shakespeare’s words in a Southern dialect because “it stretches out the vowels and makes the words more sensuous.”
The extremely complex set was designed by Jeff McLaughlin, an award-winning designer and friend of Technical Director Doug Lowry. There was a layer of moss covering the entire stage to signify the swamp, a number of staggered platforms that Bauer utilized to create depth on stage and an elaborate fairy bower, which could only be accessed from a sloped ramp.The show was full of daring choreography, including hair-pulling catfights, jumps from high platforms, tiger leaps and swinging from ropes. The theatricality of these moments helped make the play fantastical and exciting. The set was so intricate that it took a very long time to build, so the girls had to imagine the blocking using only tape to tell them things such as “the ground is now three feet up” or “the ground is now sloping.”
The girls also faced mental obstacles. Bauer noted that Shakespeare’s text can be frightening and hard to approach before the students spend some time with it. The girls also had to stretch their imaginations, so as to comprehend the tragicomic nature of the play.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was the final stepping stone for the six seniors in Drama Ensemble, many of whom have participated in ten or more plays at Marlborough. Phoebe ’12, who played Peter Quince, said that the long hours spent rehearsing with castmates truly brought the group together. “I think that after doing six years of theater together, [my fellow senior actresses] are my best friends. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. They know me better than I think I know myself… They’ve seen me at my worst, and they’ve seen me at my best,” Phoebe said. The seniors will certainly be missed in the Performing Arts Department.
“Everyone looks up to the older girls,” said Sydney, who played one of the three Pucks. The play also allowed girls to bond with students from different grades. “[The shows] have opened doors to new friendships,” RoseBeth ’14 said. One cannot help but notice that the girls seem intimately comfortable with one another on stage; outside of rehearsal and class, they act like family, eating lunch together and laughing over inside jokes.
Many cast members said the plays have molded them for the better. “[Theater] has taught me a lot about how to express myself, and how to handle new emotions that come to me today,” Phoebe said. “It’s shaped who I am: I’m a theater kid.”