'Shakespeare in Hollywood' is a Delightful Romantic Comedy

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“I go, I go, look how I go!” So says the fairy Puck in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and in Ken Ludwig’s comedy “Shakespeare in Hollywood,” a  in which literary characters come to life in a real-world setting. And if you went to one of the showings of the Theater, Film and Media Studies Department’s spring production of the latter play, you would know that it went very, very well.

The show’s cast under the direction of Holly Blumner, associate professor of TFMS, brought to life both well-known Shakespearean characters and historical 1930s Hollywood figures. In the play’s opening scene, film critic Louella Parsons (senior Maggie Schmidt) interviews Austrian director Max Rhinehardt (junior Christopher Joyce) at the premiere of his new film adaption of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”–a real film that opened in 1935. From there, we are taken on a flashback in which Oberon, Shakespeare’s king of the fairies (sophomore Edward Brence, whose commanding and deep voice lends itself well to his character) and his sidekick Puck (the effervescently funny sophomore Abby Doyle) materialize on the set of Rhinehardt’s film, and get roped in to the scheming, romantic entanglements, and power plays of the Hollywood elite.

“Performing in this show also required some research into Hollywood during its time period,” said senior Jemarc Axinto, who played movie star legend Jimmy Cagney. “Almost all of the characters in the play are real people–in fact, Mickey Rooney [who starred in the actual film] passed away during our rehearsal period, so we had to capture the essence of the real person, then create a caricature of that character.”

The heavily-researched acting was not the only notable aspect of the show, which also featured a depth of detail on the part of the set and costumes, courtesy of Jessica Lustig, the production’s scenic and costume designer and visiting professor of scenography. The set featured layers of panels painted with foliage fit for an enchanted forest, and the costumes emulated true Hollywood glamour and whimsical fairy fashion.

“All of my costumes have loads of tiny details in them, from the buttons on the jacket, to the dye in the gloves, to the historical accuracy of the fur closures (and those are fake furs, on the insistence of several cast members),” said Schmidt. “Also, each character got a special costume element that repeats in each of their scenes. I have a different hat in each scene. Alexander Rhoades, who plays Daryl [underling to a studio director], has a different argyle sweater vest for every scene, even the ones where he just walks on stage.” 

The show’s success owes a great deal to the cooperation and camaraderie of the entire cast and crew. “Everyone was amazing to work with, including our director, Holly,” said sophomore Celia Rector. “It made coming to rehearsals and shows fun because I knew we would be having a great time together.”

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