The Magic of Midsummer: VISTA’s 2019 Fall Show

Noelle Wang, Arts, Culture, and Style Editor

While the fallen leaves, frosty mornings, and gloomy weather may be arriving with the stirrings of winter, here at VISTA, all hands are on deck to create the lush, magical world of William Shakespeare’s iconic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This season, artistic directors Wendy Short-Hays and Rose Schweitz, and technical director Elliott Hays will present Shakespeare’s classic work with a twist, setting the story of the play in the whimsical world of 1920’s Paris.

All involved, actors and crew alike, both new and experienced, are eager to share this creative interpretation of a well-beloved tale. I caught several theatre participants in the lobby before rehearsals started after school one day to hear their thoughts about the production this fall.

Many of the actors emphasized how surprised they were with their positive experience with Shakespeare. “It’s not the Shakespeare you’re expecting—it’s really funny!” said Grace Conroy, a junior playing the part of the Fairy Mustardseed. Senior Ella Bovee, playing Peter Quince, agreed, saying that while she was initially apprehensive about the Shakespeare, she reflected that in this production, “there’s something so fun about how we’re doing it, with our own VISTA spin.”

“It’s a brilliant adaptation,” said Edie Weinstein, a Visitation junior who plays the part of Puck, a mischievous sprite who causes much of the chaos of the play. A self-proclaimed poet, Edie expressed her admiration of the gorgeous language and Shakespeare’s genius. She also pointed out how well the story translates to the modern era, noting how “we still have the same themes of love and what keeps lovers apart.” 

Chris Peters, a Saint Thomas Academy junior who plays Lysander, one of the four main protagonists of the play, noted how the setting in France creates an interesting relationship with the text, as transposed to the modern era. He also pointed out the stark contrast between studying Shakespeare in English class versus seeing the characters and the story come to life. 

This magic is due in no small part to the talents of the VISTA theatre crew. Juniors Caroline Casserly and Lizzie Nelson emphasized the unique design elements of this particular show, being set in 1920’s Paris. “We are really focusing on some sculptures and paintings,” reflected Casserly. Similarly, Nelson also pointed out the use of abstract sculpture, mentioning how “‘art within art’ is not not necessarily something that I’ve done before or seen in VISTA.” 

I found the costume crew, which includes senior Lizzie Dudley, freshmen Viola Lindell, and sophomores Claire Laurey and Grace Richardson, gathered in the dressing room painting Queen Titania’s dress. Dudley, the lead designer, talked about her research process, garnering inspiration from old pictures and catalogs from the 1920’s, an era that marked the birth of modern couture and the rise of fashion legends such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli.

All in all, it is the directors Mrs. Short-Hays, Ms. Schweitz, and Mr. Hays who provide the glue that holds together all the moving parts of VISTA. I caught Mrs. Short-Hays just before rehearsals for the day began. When asked about what made the show special, she responded assuredness of a seasoned artistic director, mentioning the unique designs of the 1920’s, the magic of the special effects, and the cast’s remarkable dedication to the difficult Shakespeare. 

Mr. Hays also gave a characteristically thoughtful response to my questioning. “The play happens not quite in a physical space,” he said, pausing to phrase his next words carefully, “but in a metaphysical one. It happens in the mind of an artist.” From my perspective, it is the collaboration of many artists that make this creative vision of Midsummer a truly delightful show on the 2019 VISTA roster.

VISTA’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare, will be presented in the DeSales Auditorium at Visitation School. Performances are November 8th, 9th, 15th, and 16th at 7:30pm and November 10th and 17th at 2:00pm. Tickets will be available at the door.