Behind A Midsummer Night’s Dream



Mary Racette

As the Grand Valley State University Shakespeare Festival grows near, the student cast and crew have dedicated hours of time and energy on their performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The 27th Annual Shakespeare Festival’s main stage production will be running for two consecutive weekends, beginning Sept. 27.  

Director of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Founding Director of the Shakespeare Festival Roger Ellis said that after their final performance the cast and crew will have put in at least 200 hours of work into their roles. Core cast members were called to rehearsal the week before school started, and practices have been almost every day since.  

Along with learning and memorizing lines, student actors must develop techniques to help them balance theater with school work and their personal lives.   

“I’ve had to switch up my daily schedule and do homework in the middle of the day instead of at night since I do not have a lot of time to do anything at night,” said actress Maggie Oliver. 

In addition to the student’s effort to manage their time, Ellis said he tries his best to help his cast where he can. He said he aims to make use of the students’ valuable time by making rehearsals focused. This way, students know what they are walking into each night. Rehearsals typically last from 6-9 p.m., however, as the show grows closer, rehearsals typically are extended around an hour. 

Catherine Skidmore is a cast member who is balancing 18 credits along with her role. She said she spends her weekends prioritizing religious activities and homework so she does not get behind.

Through his experience with directing, Ellis observed the bonding element of theater as a major motivation for students. In the 200 hours the cast spends on stage, they get to know each other well and develop team-building skills.

Teamwork experience and the ability to perform under stress are two traits which employers look for in future employees.  Ellis said theater is a good evaluation of whether or not students have these attributes.

With the performance occurring close to the beginning of the year, illnesses are a common obstacle.

“Students give so much time to these projects that they get worn down so they get susceptible to the flu and strep throat,” Ellis said.

Ellis said the cast is growing more energetic as the show comes closer and they are becoming more confident and comfortable with their role. As time goes on, he asks students to look deeper into their role and guides them to ask how their characters help them better understand themselves. They also “let the deeper questions sink in” and evaluate the themes in the play.

Life as a student actor involves long nights and stress on mind and body; however, Ellis said “they’re up for it.” He said many members of the cast are already preparing to audition for their next show.