NEWBURYPORT — Director Stephanie Williams knows that Shakespeare can be a challenge to modern-day actors and audiences alike, so when it came to staging this week’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for the Newburyport High School Theater Department’s spring show, she had a novel idea on how to make it work for everyone. Suspend her actors in mid-air.
“We wanted to do Shakespeare again and one of the main groupings of characters in the show are a bunch of fairies,” says Williams. “So, it made sense that fairies will fly.”
To make those fairies take flight, the production is employing the use of aerial fabrics to send some of the players over 10 feet into the rafters.
“They’ve been very well trained and very well prepared,” Williams says of her high-flying players, who spent 20 hours with circus performers to prepare. “And they know that the ultimate concern is their safety and they are to do whatever they need to do to maintain that safety.”
Junior Bryn Willingham plays a fairy and spends most of her time about 6 feet above the rest of the cast.
“We’ve been working a lot in the aerial fabrics,” says Willingham. “Which has been a really, really interesting experience. We went for a day of training, then we had one of the trainers come here for three days of intense training, learning how to do all the different moves. Now we feel really confident in what we are doing. It’s still pretty high up and a lot of people would find that nerve-wracking. But it’s more fun than anything and it makes the show really unique.”
The genesis of the aerial work goes back to when the theater department put on a production of “Eurydice” in 2009, which required employing some aerial fabrics that, other than being used in a production of “Pinocchio,” have lain dormant since.