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School Of Theatre’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Offers Experimental Immersion

The Penn State School of Theatre’s latest production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare, will open on Friday, December 3.

Written roughly in the 1590s, Shakespeare’s beloved romantic comedy follows three different subplots. The first follows four Athenian lovers: Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius. With Helena’s love for Demetrius unrequited, the two men find themselves embroiled in a love triangle over Hermia. After a trek into the woods, Lysander and Demetrius fall under a magical spell, switching their romantic interest to Helena instead.

The second follows Peter Quince, a timid theatrical director, as he tries to corral his disappointing group of cast members — especially Nick Bottom, a boisterous diva. Finally, the play also follows Oberon, a royal fairy, as he employs the services of troublemaker Puck to embarrass his estranged wife Titania, with a love spell.

The School of Theatre’s dream is on display inside Penn State’s Pavilion Theatre — the space’s first mainstage show of the academic year. It is a fitting space for the experimental twist on one of Shakespeare’s most visible works.

Actors flurry on and off stage from every corner of the auditorium. Constructed in a thrust stage style, audience members sit on three sides of the action, surrounding each character and supplying no place to hide. The vulnerability lends itself to the messages the show has to offer.

In spite of the pressures of overbearing authority figures and societal norms, characters are forced to transform their own images of themselves.

“Emotionally, physically, spiritually, artistically, everyone and everything in this play changes,” said Sam Osheroff, the play’s director. “Some for better, some for worse, some literally, others figuratively, but no one ends the play as they began it.”

That phenomenon is something that Osheroff hopes to present as an avenue for the show’s audience members as well.

“Who among us couldn’t use a little transformation right now?” asked Osheroff. “The last few years have been, well, pretty dark.”

Darkness and the absence of color are resonant in the imagery crafted by Osheroff and his creative team. The characters are oftentimes entirely dressed in grayscale, as is the set. With the entire audience enveloping the characters and the characters existing in the same space as the audience, the immersion of their world is inescapable.

The unique perspective of the play’s staging identifies the importance of finding color and light in an otherwise monochromatic situation. It is a tale of resilience in the face of the overwhelming. It is a dramatically familiar environment for many.

“We encounter ‘Dream’ upon the release from our own dream,” said sophomore Arushi Grover, the show’s dramaturg. “Having experienced a unique, impossible-to-believe, wondrous experience in the past year-and-a-half, in the breakdown of one’s individual reality, and in transitions that leave us entering a world unlike the one we’ve seen before, we exit the pandemic like exiting a dream.”

Under the university’s current directive, performers will be unmasked onstage, but masking is still required for all audience members. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. with a roughly two-and-a-half-hour runtime, including an intermission.

Student tickets for the evening performances can be purchased for $12.50, while regular admission is $25. Performances will run until Thursday, December 9, in the Pavilion Theatre

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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