SOMERS, N.Y. - A week prior to the Somers High School performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”—which will premiere a three-day run Nov. 18—the magical forest that much of the story is set in is scattered on the floor in front of the stage. Students are not in costume and a few pause to look at their lines. Music teacher Maura Malloy and co-director/teaching artist Gillian Higgins are not worried.
As educators, their main focus has been the process and they agreed that it has been a success.
“I have been so impressed and amazed,” said Higgins. “They’ve worked so hard and their work has been so great. In a lot of ways this process has been the easiest and most joyful in the three years I’ve been here.”
Higgins is an NYU graduate and working actor. She works with the students on their lines, assists with blocking the scenes and works with students to interpret the characters.
“My goal is for them to have an opinion about the show,” she said. “Any time they have a point of view I’m thrilled. It’s so easy with [Shakespeare] to say ‘Whatever. I don’t care.’ For them to say, ‘I don’t think this character would do that’ is a really exciting experience as an educator.”
Malloy said the decision to do a Shakespeare play was both exciting and a bit nerve racking at first.
“We kind of want to give the kids over a four-year period different styles of plays,” she said. “I was kind of nervous when I said I was going to do Shakespeare, but there’s a real love of it in the school.”
Shakespeare is a part of the curriculum at the school, she said, and the play calls for a large cast, which she said helped sway her decision to go for it. This rendition will take place in a modern day high school in Greece.
“It takes a barrier down for the kids,” Malloy said. “They can relate it to their high school life.”
For the students in the play, mixing what they’ve learned in class over the years with their passion for participating in drama club has brought a more intellectual element to the process.
Senior Alexandra Curnyn, who will portray Helena, said she has enjoyed exploring her character’s development throughout the story. The character encounters universal issues such as unrequited love and jealousy. When two of the male characters turn their affections toward her, she is so used to being ignored she thinks it’s a joke, Curnyn said.
“I never really play characters that develop. I always play the comic one or someone who’s in one state and she’s really dynamic,” she said. “As she progresses she becomes more and more paranoid in a sense and I think that’s really fun to learn.”
She added that she feels the modern day setting will offer audiences the context to better understand Shakespeare’s outdated language.
“A lot of times people are afraid of Shakespeare and they think of the classic almost boring recitations of it in English class or other productions they may have seen,” she said. “This is a really refreshing take because it takes place in a high school for the first part.”
Seniors and close friends Cross Santaniello and Ross Dietrich portray archenemies, Demetrius and Lysander. They said they’ve enjoyed using their chemistry as a duo, which they likened to Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, to charge their scenes together—particularly a fight scene. However, they had to stretch their acting muscles to pretend they hate each other.
On the contrary, Sami Davidson, a junior playing the role of a hyperactive manipulative fairy named Puck, said she enjoys meeting the demands of the high-energy role. She said her own personality and that of her character are comically static.
“They’ve basically said ‘don’t even act—just be yourself,’” she joked.
Davidson is active in local theaters and the school’s drama club and said preparing for this play has offered one of the best experiences.
“It’s so fun,” she said. “It’s the best show I’ve ever done.”
She added that joining the drama club was a life-changing experience for her because she met many of her closest friends, including Curnyn, through the club.
Curnyn echoed the sentiment of Davidson and her directors that the process of putting together the play has been the most rewarding aspect, especially because the cast size is smaller than that of the musicals, so cast members develop many scenes together.
“I always really cherish the dramas because the casts are usually small and tight-knit,” she said. “I love creating this with a small group of people because we all interact and work together to make a product. We’re all growing, we’re all changing and we’re all developing.”
Show times for Nov. 18 and 19 are 7:30 p.m. The Nov. 20 showing will start at 2 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door and prices start at $5 for seniors, $10 for students and $13 for adults.