Dramatic reading of ‘Midsummer’

Amelia Perron

No sooner does Appleton catch on to spring than alumnus Chris Snapp ’07 and a troop of actors press onward with a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The tale is of two pairs of Athenian lovers who wander into the woods to find love, but amidst the drama of fairy nobles Titania and Oberon, become ensnared in a complicated plot that thoroughly tangles them before morning restores order. In the meantime, an incompetent band of workmen attempt to learn a play.
A group of Lawrence students, directed by Snapp in his first Shakespeare and final Lawrence production, performed most of Acts II, III and IV last Saturday evening. The project was initiated by Ross Ipsen, whose senior project, an integrated arts performance Sunday evening, included Mendelssohn’s incidental music to Act V.
“I was happy that Ross asked me to collaborate,” said Snapp. What started out as Ipsen’s senior project quickly turned into something bigger. “When we held auditions, everyone was doing so well with passages from other acts,” Snapp explained. “We had all these great characters who weren’t in Act V. So we decided to do a dramatic reading.”
As Snapp said in his introduction, “There will be as many costumes and as much dramatic acting as there would be in a full production.”
The set, Wriston Auditorium, was bare — the original stage was to be Main Hall Green — but the costumes, modern dress for the Athenians and diaphanous wings for the fairies, were nicely coordinated.
Dramatic acting was not in any shortage, despite the scripts, which were cleverly disguised as scrolls. While a few actors were not always sure what to do with their hands or how to deliver lengthier lines, their motives were clear, thanks to meticulous blocking.
“People sitting in chairs reading and occasionally standing up to make hand movements isn’t very interesting,” remarked Snapp. “I already had ideas of what I would do in a full production. This is essentially a full performance.”
As a result, the fairies were saucy and perky, the crude mechanicals — those bumbling would-be actors — were goofy and the exasperated lovers swatted off each other’s unwanted affection with irritation. Much of the detail happened in the background. Puck got kinky with Mustardseed while Titania and Oberon were bickering; the crude mechanicals fooled around and dozed off while their pompous leader, Bottom, expounded on drama; the fairies were perplexed by Bottom’s strange requests.
At the first ever performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” all the roles, including the female characters, would have been played by men. Saturday, nearly all the characters were played by women, including the king of fairies, both the romantic male leads and all but one of the workmen.
“No one but women auditioned,” said Snapp. “It’s no big deal. I focus on typecasting a lot. There’s gender-bending in this show without making it look like gender-bending,” he explained. “It’s not that big of a boundary to cross.”
On a midsummer’s night, anything goes.