COTTONWOOD -- The Mingus Union High School Thespian Troupe will present William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream for five performances beginning Nov. 6 in the school's newly remodeled auditorium.
Shakespeare is tough for any actor. It can be downright intimidating for high school actors. But James Ball, MUHS theater teacher, said he is "amazed" at his students' dedication and the care they have put into "memorizing and performing the text as written."
Ball believes that Shakespeare is an "important part of the theater experience." He also likes Shakespeare plays because they have many parts for actors. "So I could get a lot of kids involved in the new theater," he said. "We have a cast of 27 and a crew of about 30."
For this production, Ball has rented professional costumes from Phoenix. "This is the most elaborate and detailed set we have ever had," he said. Even the students with acting parts in the play had to put in at least 20 hours designing and building the set.
Ball said he knew he wanted to do a Shakespeare play because his students go each year to the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah. He said the students are always excited after the trip. "I figured I should give them an opportunity to perform what they see every year."
In his advanced theatre class, Ball had his students read A Midsummer Night's Dream aloud. Before he told them they were going to do the play, he asked them what they thought about high school students doing A Midsummer Night's Dream. His plan to get them thinking about how they would produce the play almost backfired. "A majority of them said, 'I don't think we could do this play in this high school.'"
Now the students are near opening night, and their teacher is "amazed" with their efforts and their accomplishments so far.
The kids are too.
Senior Jeremy Hutchinson is playing Bottom, the Weaver. "With Shakespeare, everything has more meaning," he said. "The jokes are more intellectual."
Jeremy admits that Shakespeare is harder than your typical romantic comedy, but he says the Bard was "a genius." He doesn't believe the lines are more difficult to learn for Shakespeare than for other plays. "Shakespeare put everything in the right place," Jeremy said.
Danielle Bonfig, a senior, is playing Puck, and Shakespeare doesn't intimidate her. Just the opposite. "I was really excited when I found out we were doing A Midsummer Night's Dream," she said. "It's complicated, but it's so much fun. You actually get to become the character."
Danielle said Shakespeare is a genius. "He is amazing," she said. "It makes me proud to say I've been in a Shakespeare play."
Senior Joshua Erikson agrees. He's playing Demetrius, and he says that Shakespeare is more complicated than other plays. "When you say something, you have to understand what you mean," Joshua said. "It's difficult to learn all the lines and blocking. But you're having so much fun,"
Joshua said the cast and crew have so much commitment that they have become like family. "We need each other for this to work."
Jessica Summers, a senior, is playing Helena. She said her first thought about his play was how she'd ever memorize it all. "But it's been easier than I expected," she said.
"It's been a challenge," Jessica said. She's done technical work for other shows, but this is the first full-length production that she's been cast in.
She loves the way Shakespeare wrote. "He knew what he wanted," Jessica said. He was able to put so much, including rhythm, into all of his lines.
Jessica said working on this play has been fun. "The most fun I've had in a while," she said.
Ball said that to accommodate the complexity of Shakespeare's work, the rehearsal period for A Midsummer Night's Dream was expanded from the typical eight weeks to 10 weeks. The first two weeks were spent simply learning the lines and figuring them out.
Tickets cost $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students.
Tickets will cost an additional $2 at the door. For tickets go to ShowTix4U.com. or call (928) 634-4466 or email to email@example.com.
Show times are 7 p.m. for Nov. 6, 7, 13 and 14. A matinee will be presented at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 8.
The MUHS auditorium is at 1801 E. Fir St. in Cottonwood.