“The Fierce Vexation of a Dream”

Readers, perchance you wonder at this blog, but wonder on ’til truth makes all things plain!

Throughout the entirety of this semester, I’ve had the amazing privilege to be a part of a remarkable theatre production with the LMU Players: William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream! Months of preparation peaked toward the end of November with an open dress rehearsal and a series of four performances. Seeing as I have never acted in any actual productions in my life (I have a feeling church plays I did in elementary school don’t count for much on a theatre resume) this entire process was a completely new experience – and a wonderful adventure of fun and self-discovery as well.

It all started with the LMU Players’ meeting early on in the semester that I attended partially out of curiosity, partially out of the promise of free pizza. There I saw that many of my friends, some from from the Honors Program, and a few new faces from my classes were interested as well, and many of them had been in past productions. When our directors, Hayley Townsend and Professor Mark McGinley, mentioned the possibility of the Players putting on one of Shakespeare’s plays, I knew without a doubt that it was something I wanted to be a part of, if only to give it a shot and broaden my horizons. (And, you know, act in a Shakespearean production!) Soon after the meeting that piqued my interest in auditioning, tryouts for A Midsummer Night’s Dream were announced, and my friend Chelsea and I resolved to audition.

Now that I knew what the play was, I (perhaps foolishly) set my heart on a role: I was going to play a fairy if it was the last thing I did. I had always thought it would be amazing to play Titania, the fairy queen of the play, but as little experience as I had, there wasn’t a good chance I would land that role, and I would honestly be happy just getting a part. The day of auditions was a bit nerve-wracking, but I managed to successfully deliver a monologue from Othello and power through a cold reading of a Midsummer scene as a minor fairy. The next day, the cast list was released, and I was double-cast as two minor characters: Robin Starveling, a male craftsman from Athens, and Peaseblossom, a fairy from Queen Titania’s train. Since I only had about ten lines in the entire show, they were perfect “adjustment” roles; engaging, but not as demanding as a larger role would’ve been considering my novice status.

There was one thing I had that was unique to my role, however: a musical number. In the first act of the show, the fairies dance and sing a lullaby for Titania, and the song they sing ended up being a solo for me. I already knew the lyrics very well (being the literature nut that I am, I’ve had this version on my iPod for years), so all there was to do was to adjust to singing the tune our production was using – “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Misérables, another song I was familiar with. We ended up cutting out out the second verse of the song and replacing it with a flute part of the melody line. The song was perhaps the most terrifying and also the most fun part of the play for me, as well as a point where I had already-existing skills to fall back on. In the rest of the play, I wasn’t nearly so lucky. I had to learn how to act onstage effectively from the ground up, a pursuit that was as challenging as it was enjoyable and satisfying. Even more challenging was playing two characters at once: I had to switch from the done-with-everything male tailor to a hyper-feminine, floaty and graceful fairy.

In addition to my acting skills, one other aspect of myself was improved by being in this production, something I didn’t fully realize had been affected until the first performance: my self-esteem. As described in my last post, I’ve been struggling with anxiety this semester, which affects how I see myself and how I think others see me in a negative way. Trying out something completely new with a nearly entirely new group of people around me, where I was a beginner and thus wasn’t expected to be perfect and had plenty of room to learn, where I had an integral role to play, was intensely therapeutic. By the time the first performance night arrived, I wasn’t even the least bit nervous as I expected to be; just excited!

Performing in such a fun story with such amazing people was without a doubt the highlight of this semester. I’ll most likely be taking a break from theatre in the spring due to my class load, but I can’t wait to get involved again!

And farewell, friends – thus this story ends! Adieu, adieu, adieu!

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