The Dale Horton Auditorium (DHA) stage became a mystical forest with branches overhead and forest fauna alight throughout. Just as Lysander and Hermia found a place to rest their heads, Puck, a mischievous elf, happened upon them, mistaking Lysander for Demetrius. “This is he my master said despised the Athenian maid,” she mused. Acting under the fairy king’s orders, she then planted her trick to redirect Lysander’s love to his friend, Helena.
This is the fifth time William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been performed at Pensacola Christian College, with this year’s set in 1946 Athens, New York. The characters were indulging in the boom of economic prosperity that followed World War II and enjoying a time of celebrations and weddings. While Hermia and Lysander had determined to marry, her father disapproved, leading the pair to escape to the nearby woods to wed secretly. Demetrius, also in love with Hermia, and Helena, in love with Demetrius, followed them. Both couples were soon caught up unwittingly in the antics of fairies and elves. The magical moments were punctuated by Mendelssohn’s overture, Op. 21, that was inspired by his reading of the play.
Building the Magical World
Director Amanda Dharampaul had played Puck in the 2015 Fine Arts Series production. “Something I’ve loved about revisiting this play is reimagining and recreating it as much as possible,” she said. “I’ve enjoyed taking my own spin on the play and adding little things here and there that make it unique.”
“I believe there are always moral truths to glean from literature,” Mrs. Dharampaul continued. “Midsummer shares with the audience the many pitfalls of love. It comically exposes our human inability to love with perfect consistency, authenticity, and selflessness. It’s incredible how fickle our understanding of love is when contrasted with God’s unending, unchanging, faithful love toward us.”
Senior Makayla Sanchez (AL), who played Hermia, was eager to be a part of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “I had heard about the previous production and promised myself that if PCC ever did it again, I had to be a part of it. And how fitting it is to be my final performance as a performance studies senior!” she shared. “Every night, coming in to see what new things [Scene Shop] created on set was a truly magical experience! The costumes turned out beautifully as well! It has been remarkable seeing the director’s vision come to life.”
Rehearsals began early in the semester. Over the last three and a half months—through lights, sound, costumes, and the set—the crew transported the audience to a new world. Scene Shop, the department responsible for PCC’s stages and event sets across campus, built a fixed set for the production. Anchoring down the three towering trees to the stage allowed them to stand taller than a mobile set. “There were a lot of details that we had to wait on until our final install date [for the trees] before we could move forward,” explained Ben Davis, Scene Shop manager. Ten different lighting effects were built into the set that used touch sensors, touch pads, and fiber optics as magical effects for the actors to interact with. “We were able to pull from our experiences in building the [on-campus] escape rooms to accomplish some of the ideas.”
Embracing New Elements
As rehearsals went on, the cast adjusted to practicing on set, in costume, and with mics. “Our director had to make some big alterations in set placement and blocking once we transitioned from practicing in the VPA [Visual and Performing Arts building] to practicing in the DHA. We have all had to work on making our diction clear and distinct in the bigger space,” said Christina Wooten (Jr., SC), who played Helena. She’s enjoyed being part of a production with other believers in a Christian environment. “I love having the opportunity to perform alongside people I admire as actors and Christians. We have a wonderful time together, able to balance having fun with time spent working on the production.”
As Puck, a character also known as Robin Goodfellow, Meg Mays (So., TN) took time to build up endurance for her role. “I loved the mischievous, chaotic, tomboy spirit and wanted to try something entirely different than what I’ve done before,” she said about her interest in the role. “Working out and cardio have been essential to being able to keep up with all of Puck’s fun little antics. She has been far more physical than any other character I’ve played.”
“I love having the opportunity to perform alongside people I admire as actors and Christians.”
Joe Haughton (Fr., FL) played Oberon, the fairy king whom Puck serves. He and others in the cast had previously been part of spring 2022’s Pirates of Penzance. Between both production experiences, he’s found that a cast quickly becomes like a second (or third) family. “My experience with the cast has been great,” he said. “This is my first big role, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way. In spite of that, they’ve always reminded me that I was doing very well and that they were proud of me. They’ve mentored me and helped me to become a better actor and person. I’ve been praying that the Lord will bless our work.”
The Show Goes On!
While some understudies did take to the stage, audiences enjoyed each of the three formal, Shakespearean performances. Students were collectively impressed by the set and the efforts each cast member put in to their performances. “The very second that the curtain got about halfway up, and you could see the grass—because you’re just expecting the black flooring that stage usually has—everybody around me was just went, ‘Whoa, wow!’” said Jonah Cannon (Jr., IN). “The whole audience reacted to how good the set was. And so that was really cool to be a part of. And the little play part at the end, how they were hamming it up with each other and having a good time? It just looked so natural.”
Kayla Mast (Fr., SC) had anticipated seeing the production and was delighted to find that she could follow each character’s older English dialogue—a testament to the actors’ ability. “I have a friend in the play, and as I told her, it was amazing. They did a wonderful job,” she said. “At the end, when [the couples each] found the person they were actually supposed to be with—that was a good ending.”
“I am also so thankful for the Christian attitude and influence these productions give to the students and off-campus visitors.”
This was freshman Heather Reyno’s (IL) first time attending a Fine Arts Series production. “I’m honestly a theater kid at heart. Being able to see all the productions and Fine Arts really lets me dive into it more,” she shared. “I would say that [the cast and crew] did an amazing job and that they couldn’t have done better. If they did make any mistakes, we never would have known.”
Two of the four yearly Fine Arts Series on campus are PCC-produced stage productions, and any student can audition for a chance to get involved with a future show. “I would recommend being a part of either DPs [Dramatic Productions] or Fine Arts productions if given the opportunity,” said graphic design student Jazmin Engelhart (Fr., SD), who played the fairy Mustardseed. “I am also so thankful for the Christian attitude and influence these productions give to the students and off-campus visitors.”
In the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the couples happily married their true loves, and audiences were left to ponder if the production’s story had happened in reality or in dreams. “If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended: that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear,” Puck suggested. “So good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.”
Fall 2022’s Fine Arts Series events featured the “world’s most famous” brass quintet and a classic from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre brought to Pensacola, Florida. As for spring 2023’s events, audiences should expect to hear masterfully arranged a cappella notes and spot a certain deerstalker hat.