Theater department produces excellent fall show

Avra Bossov ('11)/ Eastside News/Features Editor

Midsummer Night's Dream Cast and CrewWhat fools these mortals be indeed. The Cherry Hill East theater department has done it again—produced an excellent fall show, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.

Close to 1,000 tickets were sold throughout the show’s 4-performance run (December 4, December 5, December 11 and December 12 at 7:30 p.m.) Tickets were $8 for students and $10 for the general public. There were roughly 300 people in attendance each performance; however, the December 11th performance was the highest attended. As a fall show, attendance was up to par, especially since Shakespeare is not as popular as it was back in the 16th century.

“I enjoyed directing the play immensely, partly because [the play] is William Shakespeare’s wit and this was his funniest of comedy. Also, the kids [involved]. At 56, they make me feel 26. The third reason is that we modified the play to the late 1960s and that was for our purposes a fun time to produce this play in,” said the play’s director Mr. Tom Weaver.

“Initially when we began the show I was nervous about how we could make Shakespeare appeal to a high school audience. However, as the rehearsal process continued, we added a lot of funny antics to the show and modernized it to make it appear in the setting of the 1960s. This modernization really helped to get our creative juices flowing as a cast creating an extremely enjoyable rehearsal atmosphere,” said Shari Rosen (’10), who played Helena in the White Cast.

“It’s been a wonderful experience working with Mr. Weaver and all the talented students,” said Mr. Charlie Musumeci, co-director of the show.

The play itself is the story of four lovers that are trapped in a love-square, a situation made more complicated by fairies and parental influence. Hermia (Red Cast – Arielle Sosland (’11), White Cast – Lindsay Lehrman (’10)) and Lysander (Red and White Cast – Luke Kappler (’10) wish to elope, while Hermia’s father, Egeus (Red Cast – Mike Rubinson (’10), White Cast – Carlos Roman (’11)) bids Hermia to marry Demetrius (Red and White Cast– Mike Buono (’12)). Hermia’s best friend Helena (Red Cast – Lauren Berman (’11), White Cast – Shari Rosen (’10)) is in love with Demetrius, who only has eyes for Hermia.

Being a sophomore with a lead role, especially single cast (meaning that Buono performed Demetrius in both Red and White Casts), Buono thought it “was a great honor” and “a great acting challenge because of the Shakespeare dialogue.”

“Shakespeare may seem difficult but it is much easier to memorize than any other type of show because of the rhyming and iambic pentameter it is written in. I also had to deal with two different casts who work completely differently and I had to adjust my character to fit each performance,” said Kappler, who was also single cast as Lysander.

“[Being a lead] gives you the chance to become a character, and while staying true to the playwright’s ideas, make the character your own and add a little bit of yourself to who you’re playing. Helena was an amazingly fun character to portray, with all of her little quirks and head-over-heels infatuation with Demetrius,” said Berman. “I had a lot of fun making her my own.”

The lovers embark on a trek through the forest as Hermia and Lysander agree to meet there to escape Athens, and Helena, being so in love with Demetrius, told Demetrius of Hermia’s escape. The four find themselves hashing out all sorts of feelings, verbally and physically.

“My favorite part of the show was the fight scene. It was so much fun to rehearse and block. It [took] so much energy to do, from running up and down the aisles to jumping on to platforms and rolling down platforms and stepping over people and charging at people,” said Sosland.

The fight scene (Act III, Scene II) was also Lehrman’s favorite. “It was by far the most physically demanding scene…it always left me out of breath. And although I received many bruises on my legs, hips, and even my chin—it hurt really bad—it was all totally worth it,” said Lehrman.

Also in the forest are Oberon (Red Cast – Ian Parker (’11), White Cast – Kyle Northrup (’10), king of the fairies, and Titania (Red Cast – Erica Cavaliere (’10), White Cast – Namarah McCall (’11)), queen of the fairies. A comical scene is Oberon and Titania’s entrance as all the fairies act like a bunch of preteen girls meeting the Jonas Brothers. Oberon’s loyal assistant, Robin ‘Puck’ Goodfellow (Red Cast – Griffin Back (’11), White Cast – Zach Siegel (’11)) helps Oberon cast a spell on Titania that makes her fall in love with the next living thing she sees upon waking. And that’s when she falls in love with an ass.

An acting troupe is also in the forest, practicing to perform their play at a wedding festival in Athens. Puck, upon Oberon’s orders, turns Nick Bottom (Red Cast – Zach Siegel (’11), White Cast – Reuben Natan (’11)), who is the character playing Pyramus in the play “Pyramus and Thisbe,” into a donkey, an animal that matches his personality. Titania wakes up to Bottom and falls in love with him because of the spell.

In the East production, the acting troupe’s performance at the wedding festival scene near the end of the play was the most comical, for Nick Bottom is the pretentious lead, Pyramus Peter Quince (Red Cast – Taylor Brody (’11), White Cast – Griffin Back (’11)) is the exasperated director, Francis Flute (Red Cast – Eli Wood (’10), White Cast – Matt Bennett (’10)) is the reluctant male playing the female part of Thisbe, as was the custom in Shakespearian theater, Tom Snout (Red Cast – John Lorenz (’11), White Cast – Mike Rubinson (’10)) is the hesitant wall through which Pyramis and Thisbe speak, Snug (Red Cast – Carlos Roman (’11), White Cast – Justin Horowtiz (’10)) is the shy and quiet actor playing the lion, and Robin Starveling (Red Cast – Dan McDevitt (’10), White Cast – Justin Parker (’10)) is the feisty moon. Besides the whole scene being quite silly, Tom Snout brandishes a second “l” labeling him as the wall that did not fit on the wood placard under which he is only wearing a pair of red boxers and Robin Starveling gets so frustrated with the audience’s (the audience being the wedding guests) reception to his being the moon that he explains it, concluding his explanation with a stomp of his foot then a raspberry-spit triumphantly.

In order to make their rendition of the play more unique and to involve more actresses and actors, Mr. Weaver asked Laura Pawel (’11) to choreograph a ballet number for the fifteen featured fairy dancers to perform. Pawel said. “at times it was difficult” but “was very happy with the final product. [She] is very proud of how everything came together and how hard the cast worked.”

Besides acting, there is a lot more that goes on behind the scenes—literally.

“[My role] affords me the opportunity to work hands on with building and maintaining the set and props for the show.  Accordingly, here at East we are lucky to have a great Stage Crew who is passionate about its work and dedicated to a smooth show run.  They are the ones who really make my job fun and easy to enjoy,” said Mr. Pete Gambino, English teacher and Assistant Technical Director.

“The set is designed by Mr. Weaver and he tells us, the crew heads, then we go and build it. It takes about a month to build the entire set and then the painters start to paint it. It’s very stressful while we’re building it, but at the end of the day we see the work we have done and the stress disappears,” said Merissa Roth (’11), Student Technical Director.

When asked what her favorite part of the play was, Shayna Penn (’10), Stage Manager, said, “is the green room, where the cast and crew meets before the show starts. We all feed off of each other’s energy, and there’s this sense of camaraderie and it’s the last time I get to see everyone together as a group before I leave them o go upstairs and run the show. It’s my last time to connect with the cast.”

Penn also said this show could not be possible without the help of the Assistant Stage Manager, Olivia Buickerood (’11).

In addition to fundraising via refreshment sales during intermission, the theater department raised money for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, which is a national non-profit dedicated to supporting AIDS prevention and care. From all four performances, the department raised $620.86.

To gain a better understanding of how to play their roles, the cast and crew took a field trip to the Two River Theater Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Red Bank, NJ, where Mr. Weaver’s son-in-law Aaron Posner directed it. Posner gave Weaver permission to use elements of the show in East’s production, such as Puck’s opening monologue, written in rhyming, Shakespearian language, that reminds the audience not to use cell phones and various sound effects. Four actors from the Two River Theater Co.’s production came to the December 5th performance and, according to Weaver, “loved it.”

“Having professionals in the audience always psyches the actors,” said Weaver.

The show was successful “financially, but more in the play because the audiences enjoyed it – it got an excellent response- and two months ago, when the actors got their scripts, they were panicked by the words and the language and the jokes. After all, Shakespeare was never designed to be read. From a teaching perspective, it’s always good to be prepared and that’s when we discovered the humor. Everyone began to understand [the play] and had a blast,” said Weaver, in retrospect of the show’s run at East being over.

Congratulations to all the cast and crew and volunteers. The theater department is already beginning the preparatory stages for the spring musical, which is Dale Wasserman’s “Man of La Mancha