2017-07-27 / News

Students bring Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’ to life

Weeklong camp culminates with production of 1596 comedy

Children perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Jamestown Arts Center as the finale of a weeklong camp on William Shakespeare. Children perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the Jamestown Arts Center as the finale of a weeklong camp on William Shakespeare. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” became a midsummer morning’s reality Friday when adolescent actors performed the Shakespeare classic in town.

An abridged version of the 16th century comedy was performed at the Jamestown Arts Center as the culmination of a weeklong camp that introduced children to William Shakespeare. Mary Wright, co-founder of the Jamestown Community Theatre, led the camp with Ricky Martin, a Harvard writing professor who lives in town. The reason the camp focused on Shakespeare, Wright said, was to familiarize students with the Bard of Avon before his work is introduced to them in school.

“I don’t want them to be scared of Shakespeare,” she said.

Wright and Martin selected “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” because it’s an ensemble play with actors sharing the stage. The children are routinely exiting and entering the limelight.

PHOTOS BYALICE ADLER PHOTOS BYALICE ADLER “Everyone feels like they have a decent part,” she said.

The version they staged was an abridged edition by the Pioneer Drama Service, which has been simplified for an inexperienced cast. The plot remains intact, but minor scenes have been removed and the dialogue has been translated into modern English.

“It is manageable for kids, but it is also peppered with some of the famous lines” Martin said. “They really do get exposure to a little bit of authentic material.”

During the week, the campers studied the Englishman for three hours daily for five days. During orientation, they learned two originally written monologues to understand Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter, which gave the dialogue a sense of rhythm. On day two, Wright and Martin cast the play and directed a read-through of the script. For the next three days, the 16 campers rehearsed their lines. Because there are 20 roles, three of the older campers were cast for dual roles, while Wright played a minor character.

Tate Kent, a 15-year-old sophomore at North Kingstown High School, portrayed two lead roles — Theseus, the duke of Athens, and the fairy king, Oberon. She became a mentor to her younger co-stars, Wright said.

“They’re all great kids,” Kent said. “They’re all really hardworking and funny.”

Some of the younger campers, including 9-year-old Hana Toler, were cast as fairy servants. A North Kingstown native, Toler previously attended an improv camp at the arts center. Although she was unfamiliar with Shakespeare before this program started, she relished her role as Cobweb.

“I liked that it was really magical,” she said. “I like fairies and I got a part as a fairy, so I was really happy about that. I only had a few lines, so I read them a bunch of times and came back a few days later and memorized them fresh.”

Mason Garcia, 11, already was familiar with Shakespeare when he registered for the camp. He was cast as Lysander, a handsome young Athenian who is in love with Hermia, despite her father’s resistance.

“I knew a lot about this play and I was very excited to do it,” he said. “It was extremely fun.”

Mason’s 9-year old sister, Charlotte, joined the camp because of her own budding interest in acting. She portrayed Puck, a fairy who confuses the identities of the show’s two couples, which sets the plot into motion. She enjoyed her character’s mischievous personality.

“He’s very into everything and wants to be into the action,” she said. “I love how everything gets mixed up.”

The children had a dress rehearsal Friday immediately before performing for their families. They were allowed to read directly from the script during the informal show, which didn’t include costumes or stage design. Still, Wright said some of the campers had memorized their lines.

“These kids really have practiced,” she said. “Some of them learned each other’s lines.”

A complete production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” typically takes about two hours, while Friday’s performance lasted 45 minutes. Wright said she was impressed by the children’s performances, especially because the entire production came together in just five days. This was the quickest she has gone from casting to performing.

“It was beyond expectations,” she said.

“For only practicing for four days, I think we did pretty good,” 13-year old Natalie Conover said.

“I’ve never done a play this quickly before, but I think it was definitely an interesting experience,” Tate added.

Shakespeare’s country mate, Lexi Field, said it was a memorable week. The 10-year old Londoner summers in town.

“It was really enjoyable,” she said. “It made me feel proud once we’d done it.”

Return to top