WEST NEWBURY — Seventh- and eighth-graders at Pentucket Regional Middle School are getting creative at home in an effort to perform "A Midsummer Night's Dream" via Zoom, June 12-13.
"This play had been planned months and months in advance," Brooke Snow, a school paraprofessional and the production's director, said. "I really wanted to give the kids an opportunity to still be able to do this and still have an opportunity for creative outlet during this time."
Though she could not hold auditions in person because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Snow said she invited students to videotape themselves reciting a monologue at home, "which is something that is really big in the theater industry for professional actors."
The 60-minute middle school rendition of William Shakespeare's comedy is known for it's multi-layered subplots about love, marriage and mixed-up identities.
"It's ridiculous and it's not meant to be something so profound," Snow said, explaining how the chaos of the play goes along with the confusion often experienced in Zoom meetings.
"It's meant for the kids to have a good time and for the audience to come see," she said. "It's very impressive because these kids are between the ages of 12 and 14, and they're reciting Shakespeare flawlessly."
Snow organizes 45-minute rehearsals every day after school, but each day is different and requires only a small group of the 27 cast members.
"The play lends itself to having small groups come one at a time as opposed to everyone at once," she said. "It's not overwhelming at all."
Though the rehearsals are all over video calls, Snow said they function like they would for any other play. The only difference is that the students are not memorizing the script, as they've had only about four weeks of rehearsals. Students are also coming up with their own costumes and designing backdrops or working outside to match the scenery of the play.
"It's almost like a staged reading," she said. "The kids are all designing their own costumes and they are deciding, based on where they are in their house, what location in their home would be the best for a set."
The cast has been creative with manipulating Zoom to make scenes work, too, especially for fight scenes.
"We have some fight choreography that happens on multiple occasions," Snow said. "One girl slaps a boy across the face and you can hear and see him from a totally different camera angle."
The director knows the performances won't be perfect and she's already noticed that each student's microphone is different in terms of volume and clarity, but "it adds to the charm," she said.
"It's a chaotic play. If it wasn't a chaotic play, we wouldn't be doing the play justice."
A Zoom link for the performances will be posted on social media and the district's website next week. The show starts at 7 p.m., but attendees will be allowed to enter the Zoom call anytime between 6:45 and 7:05 p.m., Snow said. She will not be allowing anyone in late, as it will interrupt the performance. All attendees will be required to keep their video and microphone off throughout the show.