“Why this is very midsummer madness,” exclaims Oliva in act three, scene four of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
Though this quote comes from one of the Bard’s other plays, there couldn’t be a more fitting description of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which will soon come to life on stage at Newman University.
Directed by Mark Mannette, director of theatre, in collaboration with the Newman University theatre department, this Elizabethan rom-com is sure to captivate audiences with its fantastical fairy mischief and have them in tears as “hard-handed men … which never labour’d in their minds till now” try putting on a play of their own.
With lead players Allison Williams as Puck and Cole Schnieders as Bottom, it will be difficult not to be charmed by the plot — both high and low. The actors themselves can’t help but be tickled by their own performance.
Schnieders, for instance, has discovered a newfound confidence and comedic flair within himself as a result of his role.
“For me, the thing I love the most is Bottom’s unbridled confidence. He’s this very low-class man who’s just a weaver, but he thinks he’s one of the best men in Athens and that he’s qualified to be an actor to impress the duke,” said Schnieders. “Puck transforms him, then he’s left in the forest and meets up with the fairy queen and he takes it into his stride that not only is she OK with seeing him, but (she also) falls in love with him, and he rides that into making himself prince of the fairies. The most comedic part is when he’s on the stage playing Pyramus, and he’s so confident that he doesn’t realize what he’s doing is hilarious.”
Shakespeare reaches beyond the matters of mere mortals in “Midsummer.” Mannette wanted to call attention to the delightful mischief of the fairies.
He said, “Once you come into that wild wood, you come into the world of the fairies, which is a magical world with supernatural creatures, and they will mess with you. Especially when you’ve got a character like Puck, who just enjoys messing with people.”
Williams has enjoyed her time developing Puck’s character and learning how to play to this nature sprite’s strengths.
“I’ve never played a ‘clown’ and I think Bottom is honestly more of a clown than Puck is. It took me a while to figure out that Puck isn’t funny,” said Williams. “What he does is funny, and his intentions are funny. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring body movements and gestures and facial expressions.”
Whether an Athenian lover or a crude mechanical, no one is safe from “he that frights the maidens of the villagery … that merry wanderer of the night.”
“It’s free entertainment,” jested Williams in reference to Puck toying with the mortals. Between disrupting the delicate love quadrangle of Demetrius, Helena, Lysander and Hermia and making himself an auditor in the mechanicals’ play, Puck is sure to breathe more magic into the show and share some laughs with the audience along the way.
Performances take place at 8 p.m. March 11, 12 and 13, and 2 p.m. March 14 in Performance Hall located inside De Mattias Fine Arts Center.
Tickets can be purchased at the door, though seating is limited. Call ahead at 316-942-4291, ext 2483, to make reservations. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for senior citizens, $5 for Newman faculty, staff, military and non-Newman students and free for Newman students with their ID.
For more information, contact Mannette at [email protected].