Dreamy: Magic rules CHS production

It was an annual spring ritual when I was growing up for the teachers at my elementary school to march the fourth, fifth, and sixth grades across town to watch the dress rehearsal of the high school’s latest production. I remember sitting in the darkened auditorium wrapped in enchantment as George, the lifeguard at the local public pool, made me believe he was Professor Higgins in Pygmalion, and Jeanne, the hairdresser’s daughter, made me want to be Eliza Dolittle.
Since then, I’ve tried to make it a ritual in our house to give my boys the chance to watch local kids undergo their own transformations in high school drama productions around the area. This week, aspiring thespians from Charlottesville neighborhoods will take the stage and work their magic as Charlottesville High School’s theater department performs Shakespeare’s classic A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Though it is set in ancient Athens, the storyline of this light-hearted comedy reads right from the melodrama of modern teen angst: Hermia loves Lysander, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius, whom Hermia’s friend Helena loves. Theseus wants to marry headstrong Hippolyta, and will do anything– even resort to the deception of magic– to turn her head. Enter the mischievous fairy imp Puck, who only adds to the confusion of all this passion.
“One of the big things I tried to do is get the kids to think outside the literature class,” said drama teacher and director David Small. “I didn’t want them to be so rooted in the words that the physicality of the play gets neglected.”
So Small gets his cast, some of whom also performed in the Live Arts Latte production of Romeo and Juliet last fall, to explore what love or envy really feels like in their bodies and express it in movement and gesture. They also move the play out of Elizabethan times into a setting more reminiscent of the late 1960’s. So costumes come from the racks of local thrift shops, and players interpret their characters with a more contemporary feel: gypsy-like fairies, Demetrius (played by the police chief’s son, Tim Longo) as a strong military fellow, and Lysander (played by Michael Snook) more of a poet.
This home-grown production makes Shakespeare accessible to everyone, and there’s no more fitting time to engage this literary spring ritual than this week during the Virginia Festival of the Book.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed at the Charlottesville High School’s black box theater March 19-22 at 7pm. Tickets are $5 at the door. On Thursday, students can get in for $1. 1400 Melbourne Road. 245-2410.