Pepperdine Theater Group Takes On Shakespeare

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Lovers Hermia (Marina Moore) and Lysander (Tyler Matthew Burk) attempt to escape the laws of Athens but find themselves lost in the magic forest in the Pepperdine Fine Arts Division's performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Continuing a string of successful theatrical runs this year, next up for Pepperdine’s Fine Arts Division is a performance of the Shakespearean comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Nightly performances begin on Wed., April 2, and end Saturday, April 5, at Smothers Theater.

The comedy, one of William Shakespeare’s first and most admired scripts, reflects the literary auteur’s inherent passions, said director and theater professor Jason Chanos.

“It wasn’t commissioned or an adaptation, so you get to see what he liked to write about,” said Chanos. “The story explores all the different facets of love, and the power it has to transform our lives. That is the theme we are trying to get across to our audience. [Shakespeare] had a complilife when it came to love, and I think this story reflects that.”

The Fine Arts Division’s showing of the classic Shakespearean tale is the final, and perhaps most challenging, in a series of performances the Pepperdine group has put on this year. The student group performed “Three Days of Rain” in October, “Les Miserables” in November and “Necessary Targets” in January.

Penned by Shakespeare in the 1590s, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” tells of the circumstances surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. It follows four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies that populate the forest the play is set in.

The play showcases the theater chops of more than a dozen Pepperdine actors and actresses as fairies, thespians and romancers. Chanos gives major credit to the students for taking on Shakespeare — something many of them had never done.

“It is not an easy script to pick up,” he said.

But the show has everything needed in terms of training a young actor.

“He never wrote a word that wasn’t profound,” he said. “So to get young actors to personalize this type of material and make it clear to an audience and bring in all the stakes and urgency it requires is super challenging.”

Students said conquering the Shakespearean language of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which is written in poetic verse, was an exciting challenge.

“It’s like a different language,” said Pepperdine junior Kyle Burk, a theater and music major who plays Lysander. “You have to let it have some impact on your life, so you can memorize the words. So they mean something to you and come from your heart rather than your head.”

Senior Marina Moore, a theater major who plays the part of Hermia, said the performers had to work hard to paint a picture for the audience.

“I think it is a real trick because you really have to understand what you are saying and what everyone else is saying,” she said.

In terms of translating his vision onto the stage, Chanos praised the design and choreography team of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which includes Tony Award winner Cricket Myers, costume designer Melanie Watnick, and professors Bill Szobody and Rick Aglietti.

Pepperdine junior Karolina Keach, who plays Hippolyta, said viewers of the Pepperdine production will enter a world of Shakespeare they have never seen before.

“It is very imaginative, it’s very creative and very modern,” she said. “I think a lot of people will like that. It incorporates the world of fantasy with reality. It’s interesting to see how those intertwine with each other. It’s a magical show.”

“A Midsummers Night’s Dream” runs April 2 through 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and more information may be found at http://pepperdinearts.ticketforce.com