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Langley Students 'Dream' of Shakespeare Play

Well-known story modernized for high school production.

William Shakespeare’s play, “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream,” is getting a facelift, courtesy of the drama department at Langley High School.

Under the direction of Phyliss Jaffe, the story of magic, prankster fairies, love spells and amorous confusion will be set in Langley High School, present day, complete with skateboards, roller blades and rapping.

Yes, this is still Shakespeare’s script … just modernized.

“This is something they can all relate to, young love, parents, rebellion,” Jaffe said. “Our leads will be dressed as cheerleaders and athletes and there will be lots of classic stereotypes with their costumes,” she said.

She also plans on having some administrators walk onstage during the performances to keep the theme in mind.

Her inspiration for the mobile cast came from the script, Jaffe said. “You’ve got the Athenians, who are of the earth and the fairies that are supposed to be above the earth, so putting them (the fairies) on wheels helps that,” she said. “Plus, instead of being set in the woods like in the script, we have a student that designed a set to look like a parking lot with cars, stuff like that. Two of our characters will fall asleep in the back of a pickup truck.”

DURING A REHEARSAL, Jaffe allowed the students to make suggestions in the direction of the scenes.

The students helped provided a “beat box” rhythm while Oberon put a magic liquid in Demetrius’ eyes and think that Puck should be pulled offstage by a string to make her getaway funnier.

“I think this play itself is just so much fun for them,” she said.

Senior Dylan Fawcett said he can relate to his character, Demetrius.

“He’s a funny guy,” he said. “He’s chasing one girl at the beginning and hates the other girl, but then a spell is put on him and he’s chasing the girl he just hated.”

Overcoming the sometimes complicated language barrier between Shakespearean and modern English wasn’t too difficult, Fawcett said.

“If you’ve seen the last ‘Romeo and Juliet’ movie, it’s a lot like this. You can (set the play) modern and use his language and make it a bit more understandable,” he said. “Even though the words haven’t changed, you can understand it better.”

Freshman Peter Wiese, cast as Lysander, likes the innocence and good guy nature of his character.

“He’s not afraid to stand up when he’s pushed around,” he said.

FOR THE FIRST TIME in his acting career, Wiese said the language of the script gave him homework.

“The first time you read it, you have no idea what you’re saying,” he said. “I had to go home and read the footnotes after rehearsal.”

Maddie Wise, a freshman, was glad to be cast as Helena, the part she hoped she’d get when she auditioned.

“She’s supposed to be tall and I could identify with that,” Wise said. “She’s a really funny part.”

As for the modernizing of the play, Wise said she’s really enjoying this presentation.

“I love the way (Jaffe) is doing this, we’ll be able to identify with it better,” she said. “This was a pleasant surprise.”

“I’m not a cheerleader, so I’m acting how I think a cheerleader would act,” she said of her character.

Taking on the role of Oberon, king of the fairy crew, is senior Aaron Lynton, who will spend most of his onstage time on a skateboard.

“This is not what I expected,” he said. “I’m very surprised to be on my board onstage, I’ve never heard of that happening.”

Being cast as Oberon was a surprise for Lynton, who was just “looking for a part with lines. I got a bigger part than I expected,” he said.

“I like that I’m the king,” he said.

Cast in the role of the practical joker Puck, sophomore Michelle Mendelsohn said she just learned how to roller blade a week ago for her part.

“I’ve been working on it a lot,” she said with a laugh. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun for people to watch.”

She’s enjoyed learning the role of Puck, traditionally presented as a male character. “I’m not a prankster offstage and I don’t like to get in trouble,” she said. “It’s so much fun because it’s not me at all.”

“I like the fact that he’s always got something up his sleeve and he’s so sure of himself,” she said.

“A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” will be presented at Langley High School Nov. 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m., Jaffe said