Youth theater camp gets ambitious with ' A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Jul 20, 2017

BATAVIA — The language of William Shakespeare is difficult enough for adults to understand. Imagine how troublesome it is for a group of children ages 6-13, most of whom had never heard of The Bard. Many of the jokes won’t make sense, centuries-old references will be lost and nobody will know what doth, wouldst and methinks mean.

That is the exact challenge the Batavia Players laid out for the participants in this year’s Summer Youth Theater Camp. They’re performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

It’s an ambitious choice and much different from the previous two shows the camp has performed.

Cue Puck, because things are about to get interesting.

“When I first got this script, I was pretty taken aback,” said director Celeste Brownell, a veteran of Batavia Players shows from Byron-Bergen. “It’s very different from the show we did last year, ‘A Kid’s Life.’ That was a lot simpler. I was overwhelmed, and the kids had a short time to memorize all of it. But these kids are phenomenal. I had half of the kids show up on the first day of camp with their lines completely memorized, which is amazing, since we’re still using the actual Shakespearean language. They blew me out of the water.”

To help make the play more accessible for a young cast, and even the audience, the play has been shortened. While the original play features close to 50 scenes, this version uses only 10. Many of the long monologues have been shortened. And there’s even an appearance by Shakespeare himself, in the form of 13-year-old John Williams of Batavia, as a narrator.

“I get to translate what people are saying on stage,” said Williams, who is the only castmember to speak in a more contemporary language. He makes sure the audience understands what is happening. At one point in the play, he even asks them “Are you following this?”

Williams has done several shows with the Batavia Players, including “Magic Kingdom” earlier this year and the upcoming “Fame.” He admitted learning the language was “challenging,” but having watched the older Players perform “Hamlet” at the theater helped him grasp it.

For Crystalina Baumer, 12, of Middleport, this is not only her introduction to Shakespeare, but to the theater as well. It is her first time acting.

“I had not heard of Shakespeare before this,” said Baumer, who portrays Helena. “For me, it was pretty challenging, but after looking through my lines and thinking about how my character would feel in that situation, it helped me.”

Shows are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Saturday at the Harvester 56 Theater, 56 Harvester Ave. Friday’s show is already sold out, but tickets remain for Saturday. The cost is $13 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the box office and through DailyNewsTickets.com.

By Matt Krueger, The Daily News