TAW debuts annual Shakespeare play with ‘Midsummer/Jersey’

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Catherine Gagulashvili copy editor

From the exaggerated New Jersey accents to the ridiculously tall stilettos to the complicated love stories, one would think the Theatre Arts Workshop (TAW) College Prep class is putting on a modern-day comedy. And, one would be partially right; The TAW is performing Ken Ludwig’s “Midsummer/Jersey,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” mixed with the reality TV show, “Jersey Shore.” This interesting combination of two wildly different storylines and settings makes for a slapstick comedy, unlike others.

The original plot of “Midsummer Night’s Dream” is maintained, the only exception being the setting and the character’s personas. Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of fairies, still appear, only, their argument is now over a birthday present for Oberon, a Mustang car. There are still two sets of lovers, Lyle (Lysander) and Mia (Hermia), and Dennis (Demetrius) and Helena. The mischievous Puck remains more or less constant in both the original and the adaptation. The original “rude mechanicals” are now called “the clowns” and they all own a beauty parlor. This adaptation veers from the way Shakespeare is usually presented. Steering away from Elizabethan language and stuffy costumes, the TAW presents the play in a jocose manner, very much the kind of way “Jersey Shore” is presented.

“I would say Shakespeare [dialect] is less than 20 to 25 percent of the show. It’s predominantly just the way we speak, just like us. And when characters besides Titania and Oberon do break into a little snippet [of Shakespeare], like Lyle keeps breaking into two lines of Shakespeare, and his girlfriend Mia goes, ‘That’s beautiful,’ and Lyle goes, ‘Yeah, I heard it on “The Simpsons”,’” Theatre instructor Karen “Kaz” Chandler said. “So, lots of contemporary references. We’re taking Shakespeare and making it more accessible, and putting a spin on it that you might not see somewhere else.”

Senior Angela Braun, who is playing Mia, hopes that a more modern version of Shakespeare will lead more people will appreciate the show.

“There’s only a certain group of people that really appreciate Shakespeare. So, by doing this twist on it, I hope that the ‘Jersey Shore’ aspect of it brings more people. It comes off as a more modern show that people can understand, whereas Shakespeare is just difficult with language and the storylines,” Braun said.

Kaz also wrote in an original factor, on top of Ludwig’s play. They wrote in Nikki Bottom, originally Nick Bottom, to be played by a man in drag.

“There’s nothing funnier than a guy in drag. It’s just funny. It’s always going to be funny. So the fact that it’s a guy in drag, who gets turned into an ass, who then falls in love with Titania, and then Titania falls in love with him, it just kind of makes it funnier. It just adds a little modern spin to it,” Kaz said.

Bottom, played by senior Jacob Rodier, undergoes several costume changes throughout the play, which he described as “very hectic.” As playing a drag queen, he has a makeup and wig change every time he comes on stage, as well as having to change into a donkey costume toward the middle of the play.

“He’s like the last person who I would think would be in drag on stage. So, I’m really, really proud of him. I’m really proud of our cast on our show for putting that on stage. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Braun said.

The play is very modern and is easy to understand, unlike many other adaptations of Shakespeare.

“I think if Shakespeare were alive today, this is how he would be [performing his plays]. He wouldn’t be writing in verse,” Kaz said. “I think it’s amazing that he was such a genius and that we hallow the words that came out of his pen.”

“Midsummer/Jersey” is playing Oct. 18, 19, 20 at 7 pm and on Oct. 22 at 4 pm. Tickets are $5 with an ASB Go-Card and $10 general admission.

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