In a flash of inspiration befitting Shakespeare’s most impish and whimsical play, Director Kristin Wolanin — while attending a Hawaii-themed fundraiser — had an epiphany.
As the auteur herself put it: “I had a weird idea last year and all summer I crafted it.”
Wolanin’s weird idea sent the Playing Shakespeare class on a tropical adventure that sets “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the Aloha State, and features everything from a ukulele ensemble’s Hawaiian lullaby to a quartet of Lower School fairies.
The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $7 in advance and available here, or $10 at the door.
One of the Bard’s most popular plays and a staple of Middle School English classes, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has served as the introduction to Shakespeare’s work for generations of students.
Wolanin ascribes the play’s perennial popularity to its resonance with adolescents and the travails of the Middle School years.
“The play is very adaptable,” she said, “and the themes of first loves and misunderstandings and wanting to be able run away and hide in a magical forest — it’s not a stretch for a lot of Middle School kids to relate to parts that for adults are pure fantasy.”
To help the cast learn the nuances of Hawaiian culture, history and language, parent Mika McDougall volunteered as a sort of paradise consultant. The Hawaii native “was incredibly generous with her time,” Wolanin said. “Mika’s contribution to the play was just awesome. Her work with the students gave the whole production an authenticity that took it to another level and I can’t thank her enough.”
This is the first LCDS production in almost a decade to feature a cast that draws from all three divisions. The Lower School’s contribution to the team consists of four fairies, who were chosen from fourth and fifth graders who got their first taste of the audition process.
On the other end of the age spectrum were the 11 Upper Schoolers who enrolled in the Playing Shakespeare class. The class is a year-long elective that combines play study and rehearsal with historical context, as well as physical, vocal and speech training. The course’s final exam, as it were, is the production of the work they’ve spent all year immersing themselves in.
Because Wolanin chooses a different play each year, Playing Shakespeare is never the same course twice. This means that the dramatically inclined, such as senior Delphi A., can take the course for three of her four Upper School years. Delphi, who plays Puck in “Midsummer,” has done just that.
“This year’s class was really fun because the play essentially has three different plots,” Delphi said. “That gave us the opportunity to work on our own, as well as in small groups and as an entire class. When you spend that much time with the text and with each other, you just feel such a deeper connection to the play.”
“The big thing with Shakespeare is the story,” Wolanin said. “Not the sets, not the costumes, not some cool lighting idea, none of that can capture the essence of what’s important. If those things are bad, they can distract, but performing Shakespeare is all about the words and getting the actors to express the story. That’s the place we’re trying to get to — or at least get closer to — every day in class.”