The universal Shakespeare experience in high school is reading Victorian English from a beat up book in a fluorescent lit classroom; Allied Arts partnered with students to change that experience with Shakespeare on the Lawn.
The students took the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” out of the classroom or theater with an inaugural performance of Shakespeare on the Lawn on Tuesday night.
It started as an idea between friends Adam Glover and Ashley Fellhauer that turned into this student led, student acted and student produced production.
“We’re changing the game on how theater usually works,” Glover said. “I think it makes it totally different that what theater is suppose to be.”
A few months ago, auditions were held that emphasised the desire for this production to involve students outside of the theatre department which lead to the casting of accounting, zoology and many other majors taking part in the production.
“When me and Ashely were discussing this show, we wanted it to be totally student driven and not just one department driving it because we both loved theater in high school but due to our majors we don’t always know when the next theater opportunity was,” Glover said. “We figured that there are other people like us and we wanted every major that could to try out and try their hand at theater because they really loved in it high school or they didn’t get to do it in high school, so this would be their opportunity to step out of their major for a little bit and explore a different passion.”
The focus on the students taking charge of the production meant leaning heavily on the students involved, like director Matthew Hedrick. Luckily, Hedrick was up for the challenge.
“It is a lot of work but it is a lot of fun. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given, I get to wear a lot of hats and do a lot through this production as well as learning a lot about putting on a production and working with the people that are producing the show,” Hedrick said. “With this a lot was put on me and that was a really intense experience but not something I would want to trade for what I learned throughout it.”
With a diverse cast behind them, the team was able to reinterpret the classic play, bringing out themes and aspects that relate to college students today.
“At the core of this story is the theme that love is something you can’t control,” Hendrick said. “The idea of the story is there is these fairy creatures in control of these feelings these people have which is an allegory to that love is out of our control and something we can’t understand. That is pertinent to today in Oklahoma in some respect. Which is why of the two main relationships in our show one is a straight relationship and one is not.”
The character Lysander became Lysandra. At the auditions, the team didn’t was more focused on getting people involved they were not worried about the traditional type to fill the role. This attitude allowed them to reevaluate the story to give the audience a new way to connect with the classic Shakespearean play. Ari Bumgardner, who portrays Lysandra’s love interest Hermina, see this as the advantage of this production.
“There are a lot of people that have parts of themselves that they weren’t able to express because of the background they came from,” Bumgardner said. "So having the lesbian couple in it is something new. Something like that, something you wouldn’t normally have and being able to express that part of yourself in such a beautiful way is amazing.”
Broadening the interpretations and bringing Shakespeare out onto Library Lawn give students a chance to see themselves in the classic play.
“Being in college and the way we’re all making the story happen and that it is a non-conforming show where anything can happen,” Glover said. “I think it reflects the college experience where today people think they can’t totally be themselves because of societal pressure that’s saying it is forbidden to be who you are. That is why I think this show tells a version that it is O.K. to be totally you in whatever version you want to be.”