Students treated to ‘A Midsummer’s Night Dream’
When the managing director of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival contacted English teacher Ann Way with a proposal to stage “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Northwestern Lehigh High School, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Though the decision to bring the troupe to the high school had to be made almost instantly, Principal Aileen Yadush snapped up the offer.
“Due to a ‘recent funding opportunity’ he could offer us the show free of charge,” Way said. “When you get the chance to offer first-class Shakespearean drama for free you jump at the chance.
“Mrs. Yadush was really accommodating and willing to make it happen.”
Sophomores, juniors and seniors streamed into the newly renovated auditorium to view the 80-minute performance. As soon as they appeared on stage, the actors grabbed their attention with a raucous call and response opening, inviting the audience to join in.
Though “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was completed in 1596, it remains a perennial favorite because of its whimsy and memorable characters. “Although it’s an old play, it can still be seen as relevant,” said senior Alex Madiera, who admits to be an avid fan of theater having seen such plays as Phantom of the Opera and Hamilton.
“Even if the kids didn’t know the story, the actors did a great job in helping them understand the story line through action and inflection,” said English department chair Pam Henderson. “I thought it was very engaging.”
Way couldn’t have agreed more.
“I think students really enjoyed it,” she said. “It was rewarding to look into the audience and see kids giving each other knowing glances and of course, it was great to hear the whole auditorium laughing at the funny parts.”
“I loved the physical comedy. Even if you didn’t get all the lines, you can make sense of the actions and antics,” said Way. “We read all these Shakespearean tragedies, but we forget how funny Shakespeare can be.”
Henderson said the troupe provided useful teaching materials to enhance student understanding of the play.
“I gave my students a synopsis of all the acts,” she said.
At the conclusion of the play, the actors responded to questions from the audience.
For the seniors, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is the third Shakespearean play they had the opportunity to view at the high school.
“Julius Caesar” was staged in 2015 and “Hamlet” was presented in 2016.
“When they came here, I really liked it,” said senior Sara Sweitzer. “You could really understand what was happening because they were so good.”
The tour’s mission is “energize and inspire students — instilling a greater understanding and appreciation of theater, Shakespeare, and language, both spoken and written.”
The Linny Fowler WillPower Tour is the centerpiece of the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s educational programming, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
With its home base at DeSales University, PSF is a regional professional theater committed to “bringing the finest productions of Shakespeare” to area high school students.
As Northwestern was favored with a production, all students were invited to attend a PSF production during summer 2019 for the bargain price of $5 per person.