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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

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Reimagined ‘Midsummer’ comes to ETHS

Director Timothy Herbert seeks to make Shakespeare’s classic comedy relevant for today’s highschoolers

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,”  a comedy written by William Shakespeare, was first published in the 1600’s. Now over 400 years later, Timothy Herbert, a beloved director and theater teacher at ETHS, has taken on the story and decided to bring it into a  new light with the high school’s upcoming winter production.

 

This winter will be Herbert’s second experience directing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in the span of twenty five years. Herbert’s previous production took place in the spring of 2008 inside the Upstairs Theatre of ETHS. He describes his past show as the complete opposite of the one he is directing today.  For this upcoming production, he  knew he wanted to make some artistic changes to allow the beauty of Shakespeare’s story to be relevant and engaging to the audience of the 21st century, and to be different from the production he did in the past.

“We wanted to do something contemporary so we could bring an audience in rather than trying to transport an audience to 400 years ago, and put them in a more recognizable context,” said Herbert.

Herbert’s previous production of  “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was set in a generalized period, but this time he chose to set his show in modern times in a vacation town in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is very different from Shakespeare’s original setting of Athens, Greece, but this fresh twist on a classic is exactly the kind of thing Herbert thinks will bring a new interest to Shakespeare.

Having done more than one Shakespeare piece during his time at ETHS, Mr. Herbert has been able to see how teenagers in the show, and in the audience interest in Shakespere has evolved as the years have gone on.

“I do feel as though teenagers care less about Shakespeare than they did when I started,” confessed Herbert.

On the surface this might seem like a glum statement for someone who is putting on a Shakespeare production for a school full of teenagers, however Herbert believes the time change will lead to more ideas on how to alter the play to appeal to the students of ETHS.

“Hopefully, what the changing of the time allows us is a whole bunch of different kinds of design ideas, character ideas and accessibility to the material that doing it in a more traditional way would not,” Herbert expressed.

Sophomore Tinsae Geyer, who plays the role of a fairy,  supported Mr. Herbert’s decision to alter the time frame of the show.

“Some of the lines and some of the ideas of the original piece are definitely outdated, sexist, and racist. So I think that modernizing it will help the younger audience better understand what it is about and what the themes in the play are,” shared Geyer.

By keeping some original aspects of the play while also changing outdated ideas, the cast and crew of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be able to form the show into something that they find better suited to share with their audience members.

Mr. Herbert intends to engage audience members of the show even further by making them feel a part of the actual story. The play features multiple weddings, so he thought it would be interesting for the audience members to feel like invited guests alongside the characters.

“I just want it to feel like when you’re coming in and taking your seat that every part of your experience feels like you’re at an event,” quoted  Herbert.

The people welcoming you in the theater, the music that is being played, and the programs that are being handed out, are all going to contribute to the wedding guest experience for viewers by being disguised as things one would see at a wedding.

Although elements of the setting and time are being changed, the traditional Shakespearean language remains the same.

Having to speak in the language of  Shakespeare may add a level of complexity for the actors, but the dedicated cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is up for the challenge. Ultimately, they know it will help them improve their craft and expose them to a way of speaking that many literature and theater enthusiasts have grown to cherish. 

“It is definitely more difficult to memorize the lines because they are not written in a way you normally speak, but I think there is this kind of rhythm about the language that is really beautiful,” commented Geyer.

Herbert’s desire for the actors is that doing a show like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”  will enable them to demystify pure theater or Elizabethan Theatre, and see it as something that’s totally accessible to them.

“We hope that students can build an ensemble and be able to build a community together in the rehearsal room and later have that reflected on stage,” stated Herbert.

Herbert wants the people watching the performance to learn the valuable lessons that the play presents, and remember the happiness that is brought upon by summer days. 

“There are many, many deep and important messages about the madness of love, or the magic of the feeling of a kind of day in the summer when you are truly free,” shared Herbert.

Especially during winter months, Herbert believes that people can feel so far away from their summer selves, and this story can connect the audience to their past feelings of joy and connection with others.

With the show coming up in February, cast members are looking forward to rehearsals, skill building and the opportunity to collaborate with others.

“This show gives me a chance to meet new people that I haven’t met before in the theater, so I can form more bonds and make more friends,” stated Geyer.

Herbert is still working on the details of the show, molding it to suit the cast members and include their own interpretations. This means the information he presented isn’t final since the cast could create some changes in the time leading up to opening night. Despite that, one thing he knows for sure is that the talented students of ETHS will create a show to remember. 

 “I  encourage everybody to come and support our students, and to support all the fine arts of ETHS, as they are an essential part of the fabric of our school,” expressed Herbert. 

With an enthusiastic and experienced director plus a talented cast, it is clear that this year’s performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be a one-of-a kind show that students won’t want to miss!

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About the Contributor
Rory Lehman, Digital Staff Member, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Rory Lehman (she/her/hers) and I am a writer for Arts and Entertainment and a videographer for the Social section. I am a freshman and I am really looking forward to my first year working on The Evanstonian. I have loved to write since a very young age, and after writing for my middle school’s newspaper I knew I wanted to continue to strengthen my journalism skills in high school. Beyond The Evanstonian, I play on the ETHS Girls Frosh Tennis Team, and am a member of Student Council. In my free time I love to channel my inner Rory Gilmore and read, write, and go to coffee shops with friends!
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