Three chandeliers were suspended over a small, square stage. Dim lights, which were hung from a single tree, lit up the faces of the closely packed crowd. The experience was up close and personal, the way Shakespeare himself would’ve intended.
On Thursday Nov. 13, Huntley High School students presented, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Christine DeFrancesco. The production was performed on a three-quarter thrust stage.
“Traditionally, we’re only set up for traditional proscenium theater,” said DeFrancesco. “However, as a teacher, I thought it was important that the actors knew how to perform in this kind of setup.”
The setup consisted of a semi-circle of bleachers that holds approximately 125 people. This posed a challenge for the actors.
“It’s a more complicated form of acting,” said DeFrancesco. “They have to constantly be aware of what they’re doing because there are people looking at them from every angle.”
The students have been preparing ever since the auditions in September.
“This is the first time that any of them have done a Shakespeare show,” said DeFrancesco. “The language is difficult, but once I showed them how to do it they picked it up quickly.”
The actors spent hours learning how to perfect Shakespeare’s rhythm, the rhythm of a heartbeat.
“We’re biologically programmed to be able to understand [his writing],” said DeFrancesco. “So I really wanted to make it into something that everyone could enjoy.”
Despite the traditional setting, DeFrancesco incorporated modern themes.
“When I was planning this a few months ago, I realized that I didn’t want to do the Medieval Renaissance version of it,” said DeFrancesco. “I decided to keep all of the original language and I added a more steam punk influence costume wise.”
The play was also complete with glittering set pieces and musical selections from popular bands such as Kongos and The Postal Service.
The new experience has impacted all of the students immensely.
“I have grown so much as an actor throughout this whole experience,” said junior Bijan Arevalo. “The whole cast has become one big family.”
DeFrancesco, along with the students, hopes that they can continue to perform Shakespeare in the future.
“We’ve poured our hearts into this show,” said DeFrancesco. “To see the kids open up to [Shakespeare], someone that most people usually dread reading, is incredibly gratifying.”