For anyone who knows anything about William Shakespeare, it isn’t hard to imagine him sitting under a tree writing a manuscript. What might be harder to imagine is Shakespeare setting the action in the middle of a night club.
North High School drama students will be doing just that when they perform Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” this week.
“My take is if we are going to talk about modern magic and fairies, then setting the play in a night club called THE WOOD that is owned by the fairy King and Queen (played by Ezekiel Rodriguez and Avery Lynch) makes sense. With the modern magic of technology, LED lights, neon costumes and intense make up we find a more accessible and understandable atmosphere,” said director and drama teacher Jena Nelson.
By using this unique setting, Nelson is able to utilize the technical talent of Anthony Risi and the artistic talents of Melissa Brown to create sets and costumes that have vibrant neon colors and woodland motifs.
The idea for the setting and the fanciful nature of the performance came to Nelson in a dream, she said.
Nelson, Risi and Brown are working with the students to make sure the performance is as dream-like, although with a twist, as the original play, a comedy surrounding the events of the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta.
“Anthony and I do stagecraft together,” Nelson said, “and Anthony designs lights and sound. I design sets and make up.”
Nelson said they teach the students how to do all of the jobs and then the students take over the production
Brown, a teacher at Western Heights Alternative School, designs the costumes.
“She works with the students to make the costumes happen,” Nelson said. “The idea of the presentation is original, but every word is still Elizabethan by Shakespeare, just the way he wrote it.”
This is the biggest show Nelson and her students have performed.
“We have the largest cast, 41 performers, and 20 crew members,” she said.
The leads for the show are Taylor Downey (Hermia), Piper Allred (Helena), Grant Conley (Lysander), Kyle Major (Demetrius), Ezekiel Rodriguez (Oberon), Avery Lynch (Titania), Grey Ernst (Puck/Robin Goodfellow), Thomas Gentry (Duke Theseus) and Payton Hartwick (Hippolyta).
The stage management team is made up of Samantha Dorrell, Reagan Hill and River Cheater.
Nelson said the cast members love the play because it is more accessible for them.
“They understand Shakespeare more and love studying his works in their classes,” Nelson said. “We love Shakespeare at North, and my students performed ‘Romeo and Juliet’ when we were in Scotland.”
Nelson said if someone has an idea of what “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about they need to come and see the play.
“It is a nice, fresh take on a play written more than 400 years ago,” Nelson said. “The play is very sensory with the lights, sound, costumes and acting. It is going to be fun.”
Performances will be in Edmond North High School’s auditorium, 215 W. Danforth Road, and tickets will be sold both online and at the door. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 20-22. Nelson said tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for students and may be purchased online at enhsdrama.com.
“It helps to purchase tickets early in order to stay out of the long line on performance night,” Nelson said.