A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Detention Edition


By Thea Gonzales


For the next two weekends, prepare to spend your day in the BAC. It’s not exactly what every student wants to hear, but on Friday, Oct. 16 at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23 at 4:00 and 7:30 p.m.,  and Saturday, Oct. 24 at 4:00 p.m., Niles West Theatre will make detention worth going to with their production of  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the black box theater.

Different from any other adaptation of a Shakespearean show that Niles West Theatre has taken thus far, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” presents the characters in a way that blends two classic productions into one: it will be performed à la John Hughes as The Breakfast Club. In this strange twist, 20 actors are dropped into a Saturday detention and forced to read Shakespeare’s play, causing an interesting case of play-ception, or a play within a play.

“This production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is unlike anything you’ve seen before. The setting is so different than any other Shakespeare production and the Saturday detention setting gives it a feeling of curiosity and youth. We’ve combined one of the best movies ever– The Breakfast Club– and one of the most famous plays ever into one amazing, hilarious show,” crew member and sophomore, Riley Pranian, said.

In addition to the refreshing adaptation, the design of the set has also been shaken up to bring audiences closer to the show. With the audience seated surrounding the set, “Midsummer” is staged as theatre-in-the-round, making the environment more interactive and the technical aspects of the show that much easier to observe.

“Anytime you perform a show in the round, it’s going to be more of a challenge.  The actors have to interact with the environment and play to the audience all at the same time, in all directions…Compared to many shows where the set can be let up to interpretation, this set design is built to be pretty immersive.  So, we had to create set elements and use props/set dressing that the actors could create [in] the world as actual students would in a situation such as this.  A lot of the practical effects in the show are ‘controlled’ by the actors.  You’ll get to see some pretty on the nose Breakfast Club moments, and you’ll have to pay close attention to finding some hidden moments as well.  We put up the walls and lights, but the actors really helped shape the world with the characters they created,” technical director, Mackay Dufour, said.

Not everyone in the BAC is there for behavioral adjustment. Some people are there for the sake of art. On one day, designers for the show visited the BAC to take elements of its structure into consideration for the set.

“The crew has painted parts of the black box white, put up new walls, and even tiled the floors to make it look like a classroom. The goal is to make the audience feel like they are inside the classroom watching the students perform the show. The crew has even hung frames and diffusers from the ceiling to show where the classroom ceiling is, and to make some of the lights look like fluorescent lights in classrooms,” assistant stage manager and senior, Ross Nelson, said.

To make the production even more relatable to the audience, a different Niles West teacher or administrator will make a guest appearance as a BAC supervisor for every show. That’s right, teachers and administrators like Sharon Swanson, Jason NessMark Rigby, and Paul Bellwoar will play severe, authoritarian BAC supervisors who will be sassed at and made fun of for 90 minutes.

With the modern interpretation in mind, the show’s language has been altered to be a little more contemporary. Much of the text has even been changed into raps, songs, and chants. For audience members who have a tough time sitting through long sequences of flowery Shakespearean English, the length of the show has also been reduced to roughly the same amount of time as it would take to watch The Breakfast Club.

“I really wanted this show to run in real time without an intermission, so I gave myself the task of reducing the text to a 90 minute run time.  That helped us get rid of some of the ‘excess’ in Shakespeare’s text.  We also allowed ourselves to comment on the text and have the actors in the play decipher the script as part of the play.  The students in the play have to make sense of the text and they can talk about that in the play.  I think it helps everyone make sense of the language.  Finally, because these students are reading it for the first time in detention, the actors are able to have their scripts and make moments [through] elevated staged reading.  The actors know their lines well, but the true trick is learning to look like you’re reading,” director, Andrew Sinclair, said.

Much like “The Breakfast Club”, the 20 actors on stage will be playing high school characters that are often misunderstood or misrepresented to the rest of the world: the Jock, the Princess, the Criminal, the Basket Case, and the Brain. As the show progresses, those stereotypes will be stripped away and audiences will be witnesses to a condensed form of the high school student’s evolution, a journey from what the world thinks a person is to who they really are.

“I want some of the older audience members to leave remembering their high school experience. It’d be really cool if they could find an actor that they think is an accurate representation of how they acted when they were in high school,” Nelson said.

In all things, Niles West Theatre must live up to its mission statement as “an internationally-recognized ensemble that actively educates students by creating socially-relevant productions of various genres that engage diverse audiences.” In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” audiences are brought back to the articulate expression of Shakespearean text while also being reminded of high school and the struggles of teenagers in the real world. Through this marriage between worlds, Niles West Theatre brings intelligence and heart to audiences, showing that regardless of the time period in which a story was written, it still has the power to unite and create thought.

“The nice thing about our version of ‘Midsummer’ is that since it takes place in a high school’s Saturday detention, the characters in the show are meant to be very real…I think it would be amazing if audience members could leave this show feeling the same way many of the cast members now feel about Shakespeare, having worked on his show — that even though Shakespeare’s plays were written hundreds of years ago, they can still be just as relevant to our lives [in] the 21st century… It’ll be like no Shakespearean play you’ve ever seen or heard before, that I can guarantee,” cast member and senior, Elissa Hoffman, said.

Be sure to check out Niles West Theatre on their new Snapchat (@nwtheatre) for more information on this season’s shows and visit the website to purchase tickets!