Arts & Entertainment

High School Brings Unique Twist to Shakespeare’s Play

by Mark Dreisonstok

Helena (Nina Southern, center) fends off the advances of lovestruck Demetrius (Daniel Petry, left) and Lysander (Ben Campagnuolo, right) in Marshall High School’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Photo: Stacey Clark)

After nearly two years of the Coronavirus pandemic, theatres are finally reopening. This also holds true for dramatic productions at schools, as the drama department at George C. Marshall High School in Falls Church re-emerges triumphantly with a challenging live production: William Shakespeare’s classic play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” This complex work, involving three plots dedicated to different notions of love and even a play within a play, will be performed Thursday, November 11th through Saturday, November 13th , and the young cast is truly looking forward to it!


“The pandemic shut down in-person performances for almost two tough years,” in the words of Marshall’s theater director Bernie DeLeo. “After such a grim time, my primary goal this fall was to get back on stage with something fun, that the student actors, crew, and audience members would all have a good time experiencing. Rehearsals have certainly been a gas, and it’s been rewarding seeing students rediscover their creative passions – and just plain laugh with their friends again after school.”


Shakespeare’s elegant comedy has often been set to the music of the great composers: Sir Henry Purcell’s Baroque semi-opera “The Fairy-Queen,” Benjamin Britten’s 1960 opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and — perhaps most famously — Felix Mendelssohn’s “Incidental Music to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’” The audience at Marshall High School’s Statesmen Theatre will also experience the Shakespearean play with music, but that of the “alternative rock scene” of the 1980s! The play will be placed in this time period and set in Athens, Georgia, rather than the classical Athens of the original play. Yet the production will maintain the original Elizabethan poetic language of Shakespeare.
Students find the language challenging but also exciting. Luke Batarseh, the Senior who plays Oberon, the King of the Fairies, tells Falls Church News-Press: “As actors, we had to put a lot more effort into deciphering the language and meaning of the play before putting it on stage. Even once we got the play on its feet, it took much more time than usual for me to find my character and figure out how to project it to the audience. I will admit that some of our initial rehearsals were also very shaky because memorizing lines is difficult in Shakespeare.”


Sohani Agarwal, a senior at Marshall who serves as stage manager, comments: “As the stage manager, I had to be able to translate what everything meant so that I could understand what we needed for this play in terms of technical aspects. The more I annotated the script and watched the actors rehearse each scene, the more I understood it. Now that I do, it is hands down one of the funniest performances I have ever witnessed, and I’m excited to be a part of the crew for it.”


When asked how it is to do live theatre again after such a long drought, Nina Southern, the actress who plays Helena, responded: “After spending a year online, I forgot how special it is to come to rehearsal after a long day at school. Last year I had a great time working on three out of four of Statesmen Theatre’s productions remotely; however, there is something really special about being on a stage together instead of performing in the corner of your room.”


“The course of love never did run smooth,” Shakespeare writes in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yet the director, student actors, and all of those involved in lighting, sets, and musical duties are determined to make this a smooth production indeed.


Theseus, the Duke of Athens, poses these questions in the play: “Say, what abridgment have you for this evening? What masque? What music? How shall we beguile the lazy time, if not with some delight?” The answers to these inquiries may be found at the Statesmen Theatre where an enthusiastic and unusual student production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” awaits.


Performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are Thursday, November 11 through Saturday, November 13 at 7:30 p.m. The box office opens at 6 p.m., theatre doors open around 7 p.m. Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic, concessions will not be available at these performances. The running time will be approximately 2 hours.