Young actors at Zephyr Theater performs ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Ruby Suro
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Photo by Ruby Suro

Sophomore Lorelei Fierro as Puck and freshman Paige Curtis as Peter Quince rehearse for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at one of the Zephyr Theater locations. They prepare by memorizing their monologues and go over blocking to put on a show the audience would remember.

Anticipation bubbled in the room, as the cast of the Zephyr Theater‘s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ got ready for their performance. Hair up, makeup on, mics checked, props set, everyone in costume. Hushed mumbles of lines echo as there was a controlled, yet chaotic atmosphere in the space. “Places!” the director called. It was time. The first person stepped on stage… and the performance started.

During September and early October, the Zephyr’s group of young actors rehearsed Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the former train depot in downtown Stillwater. With help from Director Cassidy Hall, they worked to get their production on stage, creating something the audience would remember.

“Shakespeare was such a colorful writer. There are so many opportunities for actors to paint pictures with their words,” Hall said.

There’s so many opportunities for actors to paint pictures with their words. ”

— Director Cassidy Hall

Performing a play by Shakespeare was a daunting task, especially with limited time. But for Hall, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ has a special place in her heart. She could not pass up the opportunity to work on this play with aspiring young actors at their theater.

Hall explained ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is her overall favorite show. She loves the “many great comedic moments and the limitless amount of options with the weird collection of characters.” Although the script had been written long ago, she discovered “the storyline can be relatable today and the actors are still able to find connections through the script.”

The Zephyr has worked with young actors since 2017, producing a variety of successful performances, such as the Lion King Jr, Madagascar Jr, Signing in the Rain and Newsies; but putting on a Shakespeare production was brand new territory. This had been the first teen Shakespeare production at the Zephyr.

Sophomore Peter Banister plans to continue encouraging his fellow actors to challenge themselves and build up their confidence. He hopes to improve his work in Shakespeare and was excited to perform in front of a live audience again.

This production was a big stepping stone for the Zephyr’s overall mission. After being founded in 2013 and the train depot being purchased, the Zephyr has grown into an amazing theater that has hosted a variety of concerts, events and performances over the past years. They are currently at work to build a 330-seat auditorium and continue to strengthen connections within the community.

Hall said, “part of the goal is to expand to as many different areas as we can within theater, so expanding the Shakespeare wing is a bonus. One of my main passions is to not have students being put down as ‘they’re just kids.’ I do whatever I can to encourage students, like ‘you can do Shakespeare, just as well as anybody can. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!’ We’re building a strong group of people who are encouraged and empowered to do the arts in a place that values them, and that is very important.”

The Shakespearean language, monologues, rhythm, memorization and the depth of the characters have proved to be a challenge for these actors. However, these performers have found many benefits to performing this style of theater that dates back to 1591.

“Shakespeare is a different level of theater. His language is hard to understand. You have to look at it a certain way, more of starting from the backwards to the front, like Yoda,” sophomore Gigi Zawislak added. “Shakespeare is fascinating to me, because it gives you a different perspective on a world, more than normal language. Since it’s so descriptive, it gives you much more dynamic to the characters, lines, and their meanings.”

The Zephyr Theater has provided a space for inclusion, confidence, empathy and a break from reality. The teen actors in this production found a place they can be themselves; where they can let go of their stress and enter a world they created. In this space people gathered to listen and generate a deeper understanding for each other. The performers were taught to dive deeper and discovered their gift to see the potential in others.

Junior Joey Rowe explained, “Theater is a way of expressing yourself and having a more open mind to what other people feel, how to understand them, and how to help.”

The young actors at the Zephyr Theater accomplished so much. They performed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in a way that was significant to the audience and in their own eyes.

“It’s all just real life put on stage,” Hall said.