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On March 24th and 25th, Townsend Harris High School presented William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a 1950’s twist, set in Flushing, Queens. The play, directed by English and drama teacher Joseph Canzoneri, is a lighthearted comedy that makes fun of the hardships faced by those in love. It also captures the idea that in the end, true love triumphs despite these hardships.
Comprised mostly of students rather than parents, the audience witnessed its peers sing and dance, as well as act, onstage. Their reactions ranged from uncontrollable laughter during Bottom’s monologue to swooning whenever Lysander and Hermia sang a duet. Katrina Dydzuhn, one of the few freshmen who worked on the play, stated that her favorite part was “definitely the mini play inside the play in Act Two, purely because it was so funny and putting it together from backstage was even funnier.”
The actors, most of whom were seniors, were able to portray their characters in a way that developed the play’s theme of lighthearted love. One scene that struck the emotions of the audience was between Hermia, played by senior Caitlin Cassidy, and Lysander, played by senior Daniil Novikov, when they performed the duet “You Send Me.” The audience could truly feel the connection between the two characters as they gazed lovingly into each other’s eyes.
In addition, the crowd could not forget the the cast of Pyramus and Thisbe who had brought so much amusement the night of the play. “The scenes with Pyramus and Thisbe were hilarious to me because the two actors definitely had good chemistry,” Lucas Ayala, a freshman at Townsend Harris, said. The audience roared with laughter as Pyramus, played by Isaac So, and Thisbe, played by Michael Schmitt, shared a kiss through the tiny crack in The Wall, played by Martin Charles.
One thing that really stood out to Ayala was that “both the Queen and King [of Fairies] were cast as women, which is an important statement, especially at this time,” adding that this casting really bended gender roles, similar to how female characters were played by males in Shakespeare’s time.
A prominent aspect in this play was the costume design. Upon entering the auditorium, the crowd was greeted with the smiling faces of four fairies dressed in swirls of gold and glitter. The regal outfits of the Queen and King were majestic, as well. Senior Daniell Morales, noted that “the floral accents added to the forest creatures’ dresses” and “the classic 50’s looks the Flushingians wore” really fit the play. According to Katrina, the costumes “stayed true to the visions everyone had for them” and “fit with the theme really well.” Not only were the costumes very well done, but the background setting also fit the magical context of the play.
According to Angelina Jimenez, sole freshman dancer of the play, auditions were held in November and dance auditions were held the next month. “I found out that I got a dancing part another month or so later and we’ve been slowly learning the dances ever since then,” she said, adding that “we rehearsed once or twice a week, squeezing in a few Saturday practices, too.”
Senior Leo Rodriguez, who plays Quince the carpenter, stated that “we were pressured the last week of the show for time. Once we got our first full run through though, the cast felt much calmer.”
Although the play generally ran smoothly, there were a few technical difficulties. For instance, at times, it was difficult to hear the singers. Nonetheless, their combined voices created a beautiful harmony and the audience was able to grasp the message of their songs. “We had minor problems during the show but they didn’t make much of a difference in our performance at all. The audience laughed, we laughed, everyone worked hard and had a great time,” Jimenez stated.
Indeed, despite the technical errors, the show was a beautiful piece that showcased love’s challenges through a lighthearted and comedic manner. It was a huge crowd pleaser and the cast and backstage crew enjoyed its production. Needless to say, Townsend Harris’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a success.