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Group brings Shakespeare to Central City Gazebo

October 9, 2018
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Emma Maynard, performing as Cobweb, from left, Jennifer Scott, as Titania, and Tessa Maynard, as Mustardseed, act out a scene from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on Sunday at the Central City Gazebo in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — The story of four Athenian lovers, an ensemble of hammy actors and the fairies who manipulate their emotions came to life Sunday with an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The play was performed by the Alchemy Theatre Troupe at the Charles Holley Gazebo at the Old Central City in Huntington. Performing in a tight venue presented challenges, but is actually how Shakespeare intended the play to be viewed, said director John Campbell.

Shakespeare wrote his plays so actors’ interactions would happen right in front of the audience, appealing to the “groundlings,” a name given to poor people who paid one penny to stand by the Globe Theatre stage in the early 17th century.

Some of those challenges included the actors projecting their voices louder than vehicles passing nearby and adjusting their marks to fit the small stage. Campbell also made some last-minute casting changes to accommodate some sick members.

However, those challenges did not ruin the

performance, said Linda Turner of Barboursville. Sunday was Turner’s second time watching the performance since it was debuted at the Barboursville Park Amphitheater on June 30 for the inaugural West Virginia Shakespeare Festival.

“They are so good in character that sometimes you forget they are real people,” Turner said.

The plot of the play centers on two sets of lovers from Athens who are manipulated by a great fairy king into falling in and out of love. At the same time, the fairy king uses magic to make the fairy queen temporarily fall in love with an actor transformed into a donkey. The fates of all the characters converge over the course of several nights, leading them to believe they were dreaming.

Although the words are 400 years old, they still ring true today. The play touches on topics of unrequited love, love triangles and freedom of choice.

″(Shakespeare) was so insightful in describing human nature,” Campbell said. “It’s as fresh as anything written today.”

Jennifer Scott played the dual roles of Amazonian queen Hip-polyta and fairy queen Titania.

Memorizing long sections of speech from both characters was difficult, but luckily wasn’t impossible, thanks to Shakespeare’s rhyming style, Scott said. To adjust the performance to the outdoor heat, she said a lot of costume changes were cut. Having the performance in a gazebo instead of a stage forced the actors to play off of each other and learn where to stand, she said.

Jonathan Maynard played the role of leading male Lysander, a role he only recently acquired. He previously played the character of Nick Bottom, an actor turned into a donkey by the fairy king’s henchman. It was a challenge to learn the new lines in a short time, he said. It helped he’s worked with the other actors for many years, he said.

Tish Maynard, who normally serves as the troupe’s stage director, stepped into the role of Starveling, one of the hammy actors. She knew the lines by having gone through the play so many times in rehearsals, she said.

On Friday-Saturday, Oct. 19-20, the Alchemy Theatre Troupe will put on a production of “Love, Loss and What I Wore,” by Nora and Delia Eph-ron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman.

The play, directed by Amy Carlson, will be at Make: Art Gallery & Community Studio in Barboursville. Carlson said tickets for Friday’s performance is sold out, and there are only two seats left for the Saturday production. Anyone interested in buying the remaining tickets for $15 each may email Carlson at amy.carlson@marshall.edu.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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