Teen Actors warm up stage with ‘A Midsummer Night’ in Jan.
Teen Actors Guild’s Paige Lykins pauses on the Manchester Arts Center stage where she directs “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3.
Shakespeare is not for most teens.
Still, the actors of the Teen Actors Guild welcomed the challenge of bringing one of the Bard’s most loved comedies, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to Manchester.
At the helm of the production is 18-year-old Paige Lykins, in her directorial debut.
“‘Midsummer’ is like this crazy love-triangle thing,” Lykins said.
“We’ve changed [the dialog] a little and took out all the ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ to make it a little more understandable.”
“Midsummer” is not a simple work by any means. It is comprised of three interlocking plots and even a play within a play.
On the top level there’s an Athenian Duke, Theseus, planning his wedding with Hippolyta, the Amazon’s Queen.
Before the wedding can happen, though, the Duke has to straighten out a crisis brewing among several of his subjects.
Hermia is pledged to marry Demetrius in an arranged union, but she loves Lysander. Demetrius later falls for Helena, Hermia’s friend who was originally engaged to Demetrius.
In the midst of the intrigue, a ragtag group of actors (the ever-present low comedy of Elizabethan for the duke’s wedding. Not grasping the concept, they pick a tragedy for the ceremony.
Enter the fairies.
Titania, queen of the fairies, is mad because her husband, Oberon has claimed her changeling servant for himself.
To get back at his wife, he orders Puck, an impish sprite, to sprinkle her with love dust to make the queen fall in love and forget the boy.
The fairy king also orders Puck to fix the Hermia-Demetrius-Lysander love triangle, but mischievous little fairies love trouble. So Puck mucks up the works by crisscrossing the lovers’ desires.
The love-struck entourage of youths lost in the woods on midsummer’s night, awaken in the dark to fall for all the wrong people.
Titania, meanwhile, is smitten with Bottom, one of the actors turned by Puck into a donkey.
Puck further confuses the situation by shrouding the forest in a mist for the lovers to search for their sweethearts.
“It’s Shakespeare of course,” Lykins said. “It’s the fairies playing around, and the lovers trying to find each other again.
Lykins is quick to admit that Shakespeare is difficult.
“Instead of completely rewriting it we shortened it…to about ninety minutes.”
She said that the cast was initially all teenagers, but now it ranges from teen to adult Millennium Reparatory Company actors who have come on board to help.
A challenging script in capable hands
Lykins says that directing is a chance for her to learn a different side of the theater.
“It’s a good experience but…strange being on this side of the stage.”
Last year when TAG members voted to do the play, Lykins didn’t know that she would be in charge.
Months later, at age seventeen, the high school senior was named director.
“It’s different,” she says, “especially because it’s my peers.
“I have to make sure the cast is doing the right thing, put them where I want them to be and try to help them understand what’s going on, even though Shakespeare is really hard.”
Lykins is quick to add how wonderful the cast is, how professional the members are and how hard everyone has been working.
She adds that she didn’t know how much the director does until she accepted that role and that there’re a lot of background things that must be done – set design, lighting and even publicity – with the help of the producer and crew.
“In a way, the director is the overseer of everything,” she said.
Rachel Garrard, “Midsummer” Producer and vice president of TAG, agrees that Shakespeare isn’t easy for anyone.
“The cast has to interpret and memorize Shakespearean English, the director has to convey what actions she wants to help tell the story to the cast, and the audience has to try and follow along with everything,” she said.
“It’s a wonderful experience, and a fantastic learning experience for everyone involved.”
Garrard is quick to commend the director.
“Paige is doing a fantastic job.” I’m so proud.”
Garrard said that usually younger members start out directing a Wee Actors Guild show or a one-act production before they get a full show.
“I sort of threw Paige into the fire so to speak with this one.
“The leaders in MRC and I agreed that she could more than handle directing ‘Midsummer’ while giving her a new challenge.
BeLinda Ivins, President of Millennium Repertory Company said that the directorial decision was an easy one.
“Paige is a very talented and mature individual. I had no hesitation when she was named Director of this TAG production.”
Ivins continued, “I have been involved in several productions with Paige and she is always professional and responsible on stage and behind the scenes.
“If I didn’t know better, I would think she was a college student.”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will run Jan. 25-27 and Feb. 1-3 at the Manchester Arts Center, 128 East Main St.
Shows will be at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Matinees are at 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling (931) 570-4489 (HITZ) or online at www.millenniumrep.org.