Mississippi State University's Theatre MSU is performing "A Midsummer Night's Dream," featuring a creative and interactive take on the original Shakespearean play.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be performed at the A.B. McKay Enology Lab at North Farm, a fitting location to set the outdoorsy, whimsical mood. The play opens April 14 and runs through April 18, offering two performances each day. Only 30 tickets are available per show to keep social distancing measures in place and audience interaction levels high. Audience members and the cast are required to wear masks.
There are 18 total cast members, which leaves room for COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing. It is one of the larger casts Theatre MSU has had during the pandemic, which adds a level of enthusiasm for the participants and audience.
The original Shakespearean version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" runs over two hours long. However, Tonya Hays, director of the play and an assistant professor of communication, adapted the script to be an hour long due to its interactive elements. Audience members will walk along North Farm singing, acting, waving wands, wearing flower crowns and blowing bubbles with the cast.
While the play changes elements about the original Shakespearean script, viewers will find themselves reminiscent of the traditional work. Some of the dialogue and songs are the same, but Hays and cast members adapted elements to fit the shorter performance. Cast members break out in song and dance and encourage audience members to participate. A couple of performers will play instruments, like the violin and flute, and other cast members will play handheld instruments throughout the show.
Many participants in the play noted how playful and imaginative "A Midsummer Night's Dream" will be, and they are excited to bring it to life.
Hays said she wanted the play to be as whimsical as possible due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions. Hays said Theatre MSU had to reimagine live theatre due to the pandemic by hosting plays outdoors, having smaller casts, understudies and fewer audience members.
"I think my favorite part is just that it's so joyful. It's just fun," Hays said. "And we're exploring how fun it can be, and we want it to be a celebratory ending for our year because it's been a tough year."
Chris Hillhouse, a senior communication major with a theatre concentration, is portraying Francis Flute in the play. He said he has enjoyed rehearsals and getting to know his cast mates because it is his last performance with Theatre MSU.
Hillhouse noted the interactivity of "Midsummer" and said he had not been in a show where it was as involved as this performance.
"This is the first time that we've done anything like this since I've been here," Hillhouse said, "so, it's been really exciting for everyone ... We didn't know what to expect, but getting into it has been a whole lot of fun the whole entire process."
Kat Moore, a senior communication major with a concentration in theatre, is the assistant director and captain of the fairies in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She said her favorite part of rehearsing the play was learning the opening dance number with the fairies. Moore said the outside setting helps her and her cast mates get into character.
"Being out there, like, feeding off that energy we all have — it's so much fun," Moore said with a smile.
Moore said the play has been fun to rehearse, and she is excited to perform it in front of an audience. She said she encourages people to come to the show and take a break from the stress of school and work while enjoying the sunshine and whimsy of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
Hillhouse encouraged attendees to bring a fold-out chair if they want to sit down between movements.
Tickets for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are available at events.msstate.edu. They are pay-what-you-can, so free tickets are available, and donations are accepted. In case of rain, the backup location is the McComas Theater main stage.