November 22, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo - - The performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream the mornings of Nov. 16 and 17 in Goppert Theatre were far from typical for the Avila University theatre department. It was Avila's annual invited high school matinees, and a pair of sold-out crowds totaling more than 1,000 high school students from around the Kansas City area filled the theatre and greeted the actors with enthusiastic applause and laughter during the two-hour-plus production of Shakespeare's fantastical treatise on love and relationships.
Understandably, the students saved their biggest bursts of laughter for the funniest lines and parts in the play, delivered mostly by Lyle Uttley, who played Bottom, the village commoner turned into a donkey by the woodland fairies, and Shea Ketchum, who played the leader of the fairies, Puck. Overall, the students gave the Avila actors rapt attention throughout, until the final bows were taken.
Many also stayed in their seats for a question-and-answer session with the play's director, Robert Foulk, and the actors.
Here's a sampling of some of the questions:
How long did it take to build the set (a large, circular platform with columns surrounding the sides and back)?
The basic structure took about one week to build, according to scenic designer Michael Hudgens, who also played the part of Quince. He said he built the main structure over fall break back in mid-October, then added on in the days leading up to the production. Uttley and other students also helped in getting the set built.
How were you able to memorize the Shakespearian dialogue?
"I read it a lot over the summer," Ketchum said. "A lot of it is rhyming, like a song, so it was easier in that way for me to memorize than typical dialogue."
Foulk added, "None of the actors had a script in their hands during rehearsals."
Foulk said the troupe spent 4 ½ weeks rehearsing. The first two weeks, he said, rehearsals were six days a week, 6-11 p.m. each evening. The last 2 ½ weeks were five days a week.
"It's a lot of time," said Ben Auxier, who played the dual role of Oberon and Theseus, king of the fairies. "But it's very rewarding. Everything is put together by us, from the sets, costumes. It's a close group of friends. It's a tight-knit support group and very rewarding to see things come together."
For two mornings in mid-November, it was very rewarding for several hundred high school students as well.
Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.