As I walked down to the pavilion, I was instantly teleported to an Appalachian interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The fiddler played a lovely tune as I took in the transformed pavilion that blended right into the nature surrounding us. Peter Savage, the director of this lovely performance, further excited the audience with his bright energy and anticipation for the production. I have been to many productions put on by the School of Stage and Screen here at Western Carolina University, but I must say this one takes the gold.
“I am so proud of this production, ensemble, and crew. They really owned this play and have taken so much off my plate. It is wonderful to have a cast own a production like this,” Savage said.
And own it they did.
It would have never occurred to me to interlock Appalachian themes with those of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it felt instantly right as soon as the Labor arrived on stage as hilarious hillbillies. It was a modern interpretation without separating too much from the original vision, and it was extremely refreshing to see people once again while remaining safely distanced outside. Having the setting take place outside at the pavilion made so much sense due to the majority of the performance being in nature and the many connections to nature that are highlighted in the play. The set design perfectly enhanced the already natural presentation of the material and the sound effects of magic and nature felt as though they were surrounding me.
I was automatically drawn to the costumes and makeup as the actors were so flawlessly put together. I felt like I had been transported into the play with them and I never wanted to leave, sad to say that I had to. The simple beauty of Hermia and Helena, also known as Jenna Gilmer and Natalie Acevedo respectively? The grace of Titania and animalistic qualities of Oberon, otherwise known as Kassidy McCormack and Lyndell Finger? Fabulous! There was never any confusion about who was who or what their standing was in the play and the banjo player was there to smoothly transition us through it all.
The ending where we see the Labor’s work on their own play come to fruition was so beautifully awful, I do not think my eyes stopped watering once from laughing so hard. The dramatics were very much appreciated and Bottom, aka Bella Hart Peck, made sure to deliver. Whether it was the natural donkey noise emitted or the clanging of the barrel costume- I was sold on it all.
An avid audience member described the cast as, “Absolutely incredible. Everyone is talented. This is one of the most perfectly casted and well thought out productions,” and I must say I completely agree with them.
There was much flirting and teasing amongst the characters and it was so flawlessly and fluidly performed that I would not doubt it if someone claimed they were all in relationships with one another in real life. This cast took their roles seriously while still seeming to have the time of their lives.
According to Dabney Doepner, who was cast as Peaseblossom, that is the case as she describes, “It has been amazing to have that feeling and perform in front of an audience after COVID-19. It was a wonderful process, and we have a fabulous director who is so supportive.”
I can concur with her there and I strongly encourage everyone, whether they are enthusiastic theater lovers or not, to attend the next production put on by this team. You will not regret it.