Theater: Crazy love and family ties
The Niagara University Theatre Department has two big-name performances coming up this semester: what some may consider the first romantic comedy ever, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the story of the March sisters in Little Women.
A Shakespearean classic is about to be reinvented.
Directed by associate professor/director Dough Zschiegner, A Midsummer Night's Dream is the famous Shakespearean comedy about being in love. The play, articulates how disorienting love can be, says Zschiegner.
Shakespeare delves into dreaming, love, and theatre in this story. Zschiegner explains that during all three of these instances, people go a little crazy, behavior is exaggerated, and it brings out the best and worst of people.
But at the end of the day, we know ourselves a little better, he says. A dream, love and theater can do all of that for us.
Junior theater major Megan Kemple, who plays Hippolyta and Titania, agrees that people can go a little nuts when in love. When it comes to love, most of us are capable of convincing ourselves that something great is awful or that something awful is great; that something flawed is perfect or something perfect is flawed, she says. If you're not careful, you can wake up to find that who you thought was prince charming is really a gigantic ass. Literally.
Zschiegner admits that Shakespearean plays carry baggage with them, especially if someone forced you to read one in high school or if you saw a bad community production of one. However, The audience doesn't have to know anything about this play, he says. It is our job to make it as accessible as a romantic comedy movie, only richer.
Zschiegner explains that A Midsummer Night's Dream is more accessible than other Shakespearean plays since the language is simpler and the humor is universal.
When I first read the script with the cast, we've probably laughed harder at that than I have on anything that I've ever worked on, he says.
Kemple agrees that the message of this story is universal. She says that the characters deal with the same elation, betrayal, anger and sadness that anyone who has ever been in love for five seconds has felt.
Zschiegner stresses that this story is not like a class where you are lectured. Kemple notes that the production team is approaching this play with a modern sensibility. This ain't your grandma's Shakespeare, Zschiegner jokes. He explains this production will feature dancing, a live instrumental lullaby, and a ballroom waltz all set to music as diverse as classical, funk and house music. Kemple says that even the costumes are unorthodox, including styles from the romantic period, steam punk and modern day.
Just when you think you've figured us out, we surprise you again! says Kemple. Zschiegner states that even the minimalist set is designed to spark one's imagination.
After the spell has worn off from A Midsummer Night's Dream in March, Little Women will be performed as the spring musical in April. Based on the book of the same title by Louisa May Alcott, Director of Theater Steven Braddock will direct this musical. Braddock explains that the play condenses a couple of years from the book into a couple of hours during the play, and focuses on how Jo March, played by Renee Landrigan, comes of age as a writer and grows into an independent, young woman.
Braddock says that Jo tries to resist changes happening to her family in an attempt to keep them close, but has to recognize that, as family dynamics change, individuals change to adapt. As the inevitable change occurs, says Braddock, she finds in herself the balance between independence and appreciating her family.
In addition to asserting the importance of family values, Braddock explains that this production also explores the role of women in the 1860s, societal hierarchy, and the family difficulties during the Civil War.
Little Women was on Broadway in 2005. Braddock says the production featured a quintessential pop Broadway score. The Niagara University production, however, re-orchestrated the score in an effort to make the music sound less out of place. Instead of the brass and woodwinds found on Broadway, the NU production will feature more traditional instrumentation such as piano, guitar, violin, flute and string bass. It will be a little different from the Broadway style musical, Braddock says.
He notes that Little Women is a good choice to perform at NU in order to showcase the talents of the many women in the department.
This show offers strong roles for women, as well as strong male characters, so that's a nice balance, Braddock says.
A Midsummer Night's Dream will play at the Leary Theatre at 7 p.m. on March 22 and 29, 7:30 on the 23, 24, 30, and 31. There will also be 2 p.m. matinees showing on March 24th, 25th with a post-show discussion, the 31, and April 1. Little Women will be showing at 7 p.m. on April 19 and 26, 7:30 on the 20, 21, and 27. A 2 p.m. matinee will be held on the 21, 22, and 29. Tickets are free for students with ID's. Reservations can be made online at http://theatre.niagara.edu/boxoffice/.