This article is also available in print: the Quaker Campus Issue 19, Volume 4, dated Oct. 14.
William Shakespeare’s plays are no strangers to adaptations, and, if we have learned anything the past year and a half, adapting is synonymous with life right now. True to theater’s “the show must go on,” Whittier College’s Department of Theatre, Film, and Communication Arts put on a radio play of Midsummer Night’s Dream as their first show since COVID-19. While this show is not in person, it “runs” (is available through Eventbrite) from Oct. 7 to 17. Tickets for the show are free (but, of course, the Department appreciates any donations) and once they are “purchased,” you will receive a Vimeo link with a password to listen to the play. This link will remain accessible until the night of Sunday, Oct. 17.
Midsummer Night’s Dream is usually considered a visual play — as is any play where a character’s head is turned into a donkey — but the College’s radio play is performed primarily through dialogue. Other than a rolling list of the characters in the play and a flip through the student actors portraying them, the Department’s flier for the play is the only visual accompanying the voice acting. The production of the play seemed to be aware of the importance of the usual props and settings that would help to show the whimsical comedy and, in part, replaces this with jaunty music during transitions and silences.
Similarly, the voice actors often suitably “overact,” which is arguably a requirement for Shakespeare’s comedies. However, this was especially crucial for a play where the exaggerated physical comedy and costuming were impossible. After a year and a half of cancelled productions, Whittier’s students showed off their acting chops with their transition to the purely auditory performance. This academic year will see two more plays likely breaking the bounds of traditional theater due to COVID-19 protocols. Many of the cast played dual roles as well, a task that is doubled in difficulty when the only difference between the characters is tonal. Fourth-years Albert Aguilar and Jillian Weber voiced Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania, respectively. Weber showcased the regal dignity of both Titania and Hippolyta, where Aguilar captured the entitled humoristic energy of Oberon.
The remainder of the cast, true to their comedic power in the play, were not to be outshone. The chaotic love triangle among the Athenians was dramatically delivered by Dylan Healy as Lysander, Mary Lewis as Hermia, Ali Amaya as Helena, and Eli Judd as Demitrius. Tasked with the role of producing a play within a play… adapted to a radio play… were the players Katrina Ferrer as Peter Quince and Donald Harris as Nick Bottom; and, assuming double positions, Rosie Kilby as the fairy Mustardseed/player Snug, Kirstin White as the fairy Peaseblossom/player Tom Snout, and Julia Centeno as the fairy cobweb/francis flute. Rounding off the fairies was Joel Adell who voiced Robin “Puck” Goodfellow and Vega Sherman Seitz who triple teamed it as the fairy moth and players Philostrate and Robin Starvling. Each actor committed to the emphatically disruptive dialogue of their characters in a manner that disrupted the play as it should be.
The cast captured the utter chaotic confusion that is central to the play through their delivery of the traditional Elizabethan English. While there can be no complaints directed to the actors and producers of this play, the format of radio certainly added to the confusion. Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play that is emphasized by its physical comedy, outlandish… beastiality…, and fantastical settings. If a fairy queen falls in love with a man with a donkey head and no one is around to see it, is it as funny? Yet, with the lyrical alliterations and puns of the play, much is left to the delivery of the dialogue as well. The cast’s audio production shows that the delivery is key, and they delivered an adapted production Shakespeare would be proud of (Baz Luhrmann who?). Translating the chaos of Midsummer’s Night Dream to a purely auditory medium is no easy task, but the Department and students created a wonderfully disturbing and confusing production that one does not get lost in, but, rather, with.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Whittier College Theatre Department.