KUTZTOWN — In true Shakespearean fashion, theater will be moving outdoors this summer, as Kutztown’s Talisman Players will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Kutztown University and Kutztown Park May 30 to June 2.
The fantastical comedy features magical fairies, star-crossed lovers, foolish merchants, and more, as an enchanted forest leaves each character wondering what is real and what is merely a dream. The driving force behind the play is the power of magic.
“There’s magic everywhere,” said director Christine Storch. “You start the show with looking at these people settling for something that isn’t magical, and they’re outside of the wood. Then they go into the wood and everything is magic, and no one in that wood would dare settle.”
At the beginning of the show, lovers Hermia and Lysander find themselves being forced to settle for loving someone else, as Hermia’s father orders his daughter to marry another man, Demetrius. The couple flees the city of Athens through the aforementioned forest, but by doing so, they each risk their lives.
“Lysander and Hermia basically are willing to die. They can’t be married, so they’re willing to be caught and be killed,” said Brandi Falco, in reference to the theme of the sacrifices made for love.
Falco is playing the role of Titania, the queen of the fairies. She has been a part of the Talisman Players as far back as when they still resided in New York, and she values most the community that theater can provide.
“I worked with the same group that heads Talisman— Christine; her dad; and RC, [her husband]— at a high school. I was a student there for four years and then I worked with them for five,” said Falco. “And then I went to college, and I was like, ‘I love theater and I’m going to do theater because I love it and it’s been great,’ and then I went there and I realized that I actually love the community aspect of theater more than the idea of theater itself.”
Tom Nardone, Storch’s father, also champions the concept of community, “The door is really open. Every theater group says that — we live it.”
Megan Laudenslager, a Kutztown High School and KU graduate, has felt especially accepted by the Talisman family over her years of experience with the group.
“I came to Talisman and I found a family, and it made me love theater again,” said Laudenslager, who plays Hermia. “That’s the most important part of being in a show. You have to like the people you’re in a show with.”
“You definitely have to have good chemistry with someone to yell at them on stage,” added Matt Lupacckino, who plays Nick Bottom, explaining that community isn’t only important for the most conventional reasons.
Although Lupacckino and the rest of the Talisman Players are embarking on their very first adventure in both Shakespeare and outdoor theater, this uncharted territory has become a welcomed challenge for the group.
“This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, but I actually never thought that we could do it,” said Storch. “It’s very difficult to do Shakespeare well and to really be able to communicate a message to an audience. I didn’t just want to do Shakespeare for the sake of doing Shakespeare; I wanted it to be good.”
One of the main obstacles that the cast had to get past was actually understanding their lines. For actors who were used to reading lines and understanding them immediately, the show called for a major transition. For actors experiencing their first major role, that transition was even more difficult.
“It was definitely a big jump, from being in the chorus of a musical, to basically learning a new language and being put out there as one of the main roles,” said Vivien Setliff, a 12 year old playing the role of Puck, a mischievous fairy.
Puck is the sidekick of Oberon, king of the fairies. Alex Bartlett, a seasoned Talisman Player, will take on the role, and he too experienced a significant transition when taking on Shakespeare for the first time.
“With Shakespeare in general, reading it in high school and even seeing the movie with it doesn’t do it justice,” said Bartlett. “You don’t really have an idea of what you’re really getting into with Shakespeare just from reading it like that, but by performing it and bringing these words to life and trying to make something out of this new language, it becomes a lot more accessible when you actually attack it the way it’s supposed to be: as a performance and not as a text or a book.”
Lupacckino agreed that there are common misperceptions regarding Shakespeare due to the means by which most people experience his work, adding that, “People like Shakespeare, they just don’t know it yet!”
The show will open on May 30 at 6:30 p.m. at Kutztown University and on May 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the Kutztown Park. It will return to KU on June 1 at 2:30 and 6:30 p.m. and June 2 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are available online, as well as information about the Talisman Players upcoming summer musical, “Oliver”, at https://talismanplayers.com/.