The Times West Virginian


April 10, 2014

‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with a difference

FAIRMONT — Every year, faculty at Fairmont State University’s theater department plan their performances based on students’ experience.

“The students that we have right now, we have not done a play by Shakespeare since they’ve been in school,” said Dr. Francene Kirk, professor of communication and fine arts, and the play’s director.

They will perform “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” April 10-12 at Wallman Hall Theatre on campus.

Show time is 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10, and seating is given on a first-come, first-served basis.

Students began preparing since they auditioned in January.

They worked to master the Shakespearean style, which, for many of them, is out of their comfort zone.

“They are engaging with Shakespeare’s language, and for most of them, that’s a new experience. The first thing they’ve done is work with me to figure out what the lines mean, and then we’ve had to work to figure out what the characters’ intentions are,” said Kirk. “Then we’ve had to work at the style of Shakespeare — the acting is broader, bigger, not as realistic ...”

They began this task by what Kirk calls a “walk and talk.”

Students walk around the room while reading their lines in different styles, like they were in a Western or as if they were in kindergarten.

“So, they would start to see that kind of interaction with the text starts to make them have realizations about what the text means,” said Kirk.

The play features interconnecting plots that are joined by a wedding celebration, and students prepared in separate groups at first, depending on their roles.

Then, they came together for full rehearsals in later weeks.

While the language proved challenging for the students to master, Kirk said the audience will have little problems understanding.

The way the actors portray the language through body movements and tone of voice will make it easier to understand, she said.

Audience members can expect to see colorful lighting, choreographed fight scenes, and an untraditional set and costumes.

“I asked my designers to make this world look like perhaps they had just come out of a war, and I also asked them to look like this world has suffered through climate change, and I asked them to make a world that looks like a place where technology has failed us,” Kirk said.

The set designer, Troy Snyder, is a faculty member at Fairmont State, and he was assisted by a student using the opportunity as his senior project.

Several students, in fact, worked on the production as a senior project and to prepare them for the real world.

Kurtis Dennison designed the costumes as his senior project, and Lillian Gaylord served as the play’s dramaturge.

“She not only did research for me and the designers to help us with the language and the time period, but then she did a hall display that helps the audience understand the play,” said Kirk.

Another student served as a liaison and worked with area schools, inviting them to attend matinee shows throughout the week.

“We have to provide them with an experience that somehow approximates what they’re going to be doing in the world of work,” said Kirk. “So, productions like this prepare them for that world.”

To purchase tickets in advance, call the box office at 304-367-4240.

Tickets may also be purchased at the door.

Email Chelsi Baker at or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.

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