Midsummer this winter

Tom Garron wanted performers in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to live as their character. For freshman Brenna Markle, who plays the nymph Tatiana in the production, this meant being one with nature.

Garron will direct the show with the 14th Grade Players this weekend in what is anticipated to be the largest student theater production of the season.

“I want the actors to experience life as their character, to live their character,” Garron said, referencing his asking Markle to take a hike and experience nature to further develop a role.

For Garron, directing the show realized a longtime interest in Shakespearean theater.

Garron participated in a Shakespeare Theater Company residency program in high school, where he said he developed a distinct method of performing Shakespeare.

“It was such a great program. I wanted to share it with everyone here,” he said.

A senior majoring in international affairs with a minor in theater, Garron has been affiliated with 14th Grade Players and the campus theater community since his freshman year. While “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” marks his first experience directing a performance, he has acted in just under 10 shows.

Proposing the show to 14th Grade Players, Garron welcomed the use of Betts theater, the performance space on the ground floor of the Marvin Center, which is not typical for University performances because of its size.

“I had proposed to do the show in the Lisner downstage,” where student theater productions are typically held, “but being able to use the Betts theater was a real stroke of luck,” he said.

The cast, which includes 21 performers – half of whom are freshman – has rehearsed since October, and actors were asked to learn their lines and develop their roles over winter break.

“Our cast is very brave, very creative, very willing to experiment,” he said, characterizing his directional approach as fluid. Nightly rehearsals consisted of clowning exercises, to help set the comedic mood of the production.

“I’ve never seen Shakespeare this funny,” he said of the work. “There are just so many moments that are so funny they bring me to tears every time I see them.”

Garron recognized the work of those behind the scenes. “The stage manager is the reason the show is happening,” he said, referring to Amanda Rhodes, president of the Student Theater Council. The costumes are also a draw, he said, they were shipped in from San Francisco.

The show required substantial funding, given the costumes and abstract sets, so Garron secured contributions from local businesses like Java City, in addition to co-sponsorship from the Student Association.

“Every class that deals with classic literature should be coming to this show,” Garron said, adding, “This is something entirely different from any other production in the past.”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed in the Betts theater this Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students.

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