A Play Within a Play: The Actors Behind A Classic Shakespeare Tale

Alexa Davis

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Maddy showing off the wings of her costume. Photo Credit / Alexa Davis

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It’s mid August and they’re all excited and nervous at the same time. Chris Aranda, Maddy Holmer and J’Viohn Sirrine are all auditioning for cast parts in the Kalamazoo Civic Theater’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as part of the theatre’s Shakespeare festival. Now, each of them have landed their desired parts and are preparing for the play’s soon to be opening night.
According to the Shakespeare Research Center, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a Shakespeare play with several intertwining stories of Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, the four lovers of the story. Complications between the lovers arise and they all chase each other into the nearby forest, as some of the lovers run away from others. The king and queen of the fairies live in these woods and are fighting about a boy the queen has adopted. The king appoints his servant to sprinkle a love potion into the queen ’s eyes, but Puck, the fairy King’s servant, decides to also use some of the potion to mess around with all the lovers, creating relationship chaos. During the mixup of lovers, a group of craftsmen rehearse their play “Pyramus and Thisbe,” which is to be performed for a duke.
Sophomore J’Viohn Sirrine plays Starveling, a character who’s job is to provide some comedic relief throughout the play.
“[Starveling] is a part of the rude mechanicals that provide a lot of comedy,” said J’Vhion.
J’Viohn is a newcomer to the Civic, and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be his debut performance. Before that, he was introduced to Civic productions by performing in their summer United Teens Talent Show in August of 2017. He performed “Glory” by John Legend and the rapper Common, and has since decided to audition for more Civic productions.
His castmate, Chris Aranda, is no new face to the Civic.
“My 7th grade choir class went to see ‘Peter Pan’ at the Civic, and it was after that that I started getting more into it [Civic productions],” said Chris.
Over the years Chris has played Bomber in “The Hobbit,” a bodyguard in “The Mystery of the Crown Jewel,” the prince in “Beauty and the Beast,” and has been an assistant stage manager for “The Still Life of Iris.”
Chris is now playing Egeus, a king and father in the play who is trying to arrange his daughter with a different lover.
“[Egeus] is the strict father of Hermia, one of the lovers,” said Chris.
When asked why he chose that role, Chris said that he asked some of his friends what role they thought would suit him and which character he should go for, and it was decided Egeus was a good fit.
With an experience level that is in between J’Viohn’s newbie appearance and Chris’s bucket full of experience, comes Maddy Holmer. Maddy is a current senior at Loy Norrix, and she will portray the character Puck in the upcoming production.
“Puck is a mischievous fairy that likes to mess with all the other characters,” said Peterson.
Puck is the character that mixes up the four lovers within the story. Her character also turns another character into a donkey and causes the fairy queen to accidentally fall in love with the man Puck just gave a horse head to. Overall, she is the main trouble maker and she was very excited to audition and play that role.
“[A Midsummer Night’s Dream] was the first show I was in when Norrix did it,” said Maddy. “Then I auditioned [for the Civic] and ta-da!”
This will be Maddy’s second Civic production. Last year she played spunky Aunt Bee in “Ramona Quimby.”
With the performance weekend already here, these three have spent many hours of rehearsal to get their roles down perfectly.
“Right now, we practice at the Carver Center [and] go from 4-6 p.m. two to three days a week,” said Chris. “Saturday [the 14th] starts tech week, and then it’s 4-7 p.m. every night for everyone.”
Tech week is full of excitement. Each night consists of a full dress rehearsal with the costumes, props and makeup. The crew hammers down the lighting, sound effects and other nuances, so the full week of shows can go as smooth as possible before the curtain goes up.
While “A Midsummer Night’s” Dream is a favorable classic, the Civic will be putting its own twist on the production.
The setting is at a preparatory school rather than in Athens, Greece, and the while the characters have the same role in the play, they come from different cliques found within a general school setting. The fairies aren’t bubbly people with flowers in their hair, but instead they are portrayed as a group of punk rock rebel types. The lovers are your typical preppy students, crisp uniforms and all, and the rude mechanicals will be the staff of the school.
“[Despite the changes] none of the dialogue is simplified . . . [the] language is basically the same,” said Maddy. To insure that the classicality of Shakespeare is still preserved.
In conjunction with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the Civic adult program, which is for people 18 or older, is simultaneously producing another one of Shakespeare’s classics, “Macbeth,” during the same week. To bring these two shows together, some elements from Macbeth-affectionately known as “Maccers” to most theatre kids because of the belief that Shakespeare might have cursed the play, can be found within “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” such as the theme of having three of everything and overlapping color schemes.
Just like most people there are some nerves flying around regarding opening weekend.
“No matter how much you do there’s still some bubbliness for auditions and opening night,” said J’Viohn.
J’Viohn’s is worried about possibly messing up his lines and getting sudden stage fright.
“Especially since this is my first full production,” J’Viohn said.
Maddy always worries that a cast member won’t be able to make it to the show, which will throw a wrench in the production.
“But everything always works out, so I don’t worry about anything too much,” said Maddy.
As opening weekend is here, each actor is ready to step into the spotlight and portray the characters they have been impersonating since early August and then to maybe step into a new character in the near future.
Chris is thinking about auditioning for a part in the adult production “Sherlock Holmes, A Baskerville Mystery,” and J’Vhion might audition for a role in “Harriet the Spy.” Maddy plans on auditioning for most of the shows the Civic plans to put on this season.
The Civic seems to be a great place to be in the acting world and these three certainly think the same.
“Audition for the Civic,” suggested Chris. “You’ll meet some good people and it’s a good experience.”
Starveling (J’Vhion) expressing his sadness for his lost friend “Bottom” in the show. Photo Credit / Alexa Davis