Gilpin County Players tackle Shakespeare
by Patty Unruh
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
That was an understatement for the characters in Shakespeare’s comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” skillfully presented by the Gilpin County Players on April 19-21 in the Gilpin School auditorium. Students from elementary through high school and many supporting adults combined forces to produce the play, which the large audiences attending all performances found delightful.
Attempting a Shakespeare play was a first for both the students and director Hannah Raynes.
“What an endeavor!” Raynes exclaimed. “Performing Shakespeare is not an easy feat. From the line memorization, interpretation, and character development, it entails a lot of hard work and commitment. The whole process was a memorable experience, and I’ve never been more proud of the work these students have done with a production.”
During the past few years, the school’s theatre department has grown rapidly, and Raynes knew they were now up for the challenge. “We may be a small mountain school, but the talent that exists within this group is bigger than anyone expected,” she said.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” actually has dozens of adaptations specifically written for high school students, Raynes advised. After reviewing several scripts for young performers that departed from William Shakespeare’s original writing, she felt disappointed. She realized that the Gilpin students didn’t need a high school version of the play.
“They were ready for the real deal,” she said. The students performed Everett Quinton’s adaptation originally performed by adults in New York City in 1994.
The play portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers – Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena – and a group of six amateur actors who are manipulated by the fairies who live in the forest in which most of the play is set. The fairies include Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen. The amateur actors are Athenian craftsmen rehearsing a play that they hope to perform for the duke and his bride.
Oberon and Titania are at odds over a young Indian princess given to Titania by the princess’s mother. Oberon wants the princess, and Titania won’t give her to him. Seeking revenge, Oberon sends his merry servant, Puck, to acquire a magical flower, the juice of which can be spread over a sleeping person’s eyelids to make that person fall in love with the first thing he or she sees upon waking. Puck obtains the flower, and the humorous mischief and mistakes begin.
Puck sets many of the play’s events in motion with her magic. She transforms the craftsman Nick Bottom’s head into that of an ass and mistakenly smears the love potion on the wrong person’s eyelids. When the fairy queen, Titania, awakens from sleep, the first creature she sees and falls in love with is the ridiculous Bottom. The young Athenian men and women wake to a lovers’ tangle in which both men love the same woman and engage in a comic rivalry.
Eventually, Oberon obtains the Indian girl, the four lovers get things straightened out, and all is well. Theseus and Hippolyta and the young lovers watch the craftsmen perform their play, a bumbling version of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. When the play is completed, the lovers depart, and only Puck remains, to ask the audience for its forgiveness and to urge it to remember the play as though it had all been a dream.
Though most of the conflict in the play stems from the troubles of romance, it’s not really a love story. The tone is lighthearted, and everything ends happily.
The main characters were played by Esmee Halsted (Puck), Caleb Murphy (Bottom), Chris Pence (Theseus), Kristen Hardman (Hippolyta), Logan Prewitt (Lysander), Cassidy Wood (Hermia), Damian Sonsino (Demetrius), Sarah Trujillo (Helena), Aidan Freeman (Oberon), and Claire Diekman (Titania). Several supporting actors and the Gilpin Elementary Theatre Players, who were featured in a classical ballet number choreographed by LA Dysart, completed the cast.
The main set was a fabulous garden that came alive with the creative carpentry of Ryan Raynes, the director’s husband, and the efforts of his hard-working tech crew.
Trapeze swings extended from the auditorium ceilings included choreographed trapeze dance with help from Frequent Flyers’ Angela Desanter.
The theatre department came up with a variety of ways to help raise funds. On opening night, the Gilpin County Cheerleaders hosted a Fiesta Bowl supper in the school cafeteria for family, friends, cast, crew, and guests from the community.
A raffle was held for a “Midsummer Night’s Dream” longboard, custom designed by Boardlife of Denver. The drawing was held after the final show on Saturday.
They also sold advertising, offered Gilpin County Players sweatshirts, and made flowers available to purchase and give to cast or crew members.
The Gilpin County Players extended thanks to Gilpin County service employees and offered them free tickets to the Saturday, April 21, noontime show.
Drama fun will continue this summer, as the Peak to Peak Players, begun by Gilpin Elementary’s acting director Jacquelyn O’Brien, will offer two sessions of children’s theatre camps, including performances of “The Wizard of Oz” and the musical “Seussical.”
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