Fall play takes center stage at Shady Side

Tawnya Panizzi
| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 10:49 p.m.

Dana Hardy-Bingham loves “Romeo & Juliet” with the same intensity as the lead characters were enamored with each other.

The theater director at Shady Side Academy believes that “Julies Caesar” is relevant in today's world with its themes of honor, betrayal and friendship.

In short, the self-described Bard fanatic believes Shakespeare's work is timeless and wants everyone to be drawn to it the way she is.

That's why she chose “A Midsummer Night's Dream” for this year's production, which hits the stage at 7:30 p.m. today and Friday, Nov. 1 and 2; 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4 at the Hillman Center for Performing Arts on the Senior School campus along Fox Chapel Road.

Tickets cost $8 for adults and $6 for students and may be purchased in advance by calling 412-968-3040 or by visiting http://shadyside.showclix.com

“I have loved working on Shakespeare since my early acting career,” said Hardy-Bingham, who after graduating would spend summers performing in park tours on the west coast.

“I performed in over 25 Shakespeare plays and loved every minute of it, even though now, directing the Bard's work can be more challenging than acting in it.”

Once you decipher the nuances of the text, Shakespearian themes of love, rebellion and magic still resonate today, Hardy-Bingham said.

She credits her dramaturge (script doctor) Danielle Plung, a senior, with assisting on the adaptation to make the performance appealing for the audience.

“It's a huge reason we chose this one, because it can easily be updated to fit today's situations,” she said.

“A Midsummer Night's Dream” follows the adventures of four young lovers and a group of six amateur actors who are controlled by a forest full of fairies where the play takes place.

The SSA script keeps the classic tone but was updated by a team of student writers that created an adaptation using about 40 percent contemporary language. Student Elisa Ogot said the rewrites help her better understand the context of each scene.

Hardy-Bingham was pleased to find that more than 20 students sought parts in the show. Many of them are returning from the previous year's production of “Romeo & Juliet,” giving them a leg up on the sometimes tongue-twisting language used in the 1500s.

Sophomore Julian Schwartz plays the role of Puck in the comedy after having taking on the lead in “Romeo & Juliet” last year. He admits the dialogue is difficult but it's getting easier.

It has been a great challenge, Schwartz said, but “for me, acting is the one thing in my life I've done where I feel at home.”

It's no coincidence that acting in the setting of “Midsummer's” fairy-filled forest has been magical, Schwartz said.

“Even in this week before the play opens, there's a sense that it's going to blow people off their feet.”

For others, like Ogot, the highlight of the fall performance has nothing to do with what's happening on stage. It's the camaraderie behind the scene that is alluring.

“Bonding with cast members and meeting new people is the best part of being in the show,” said Ogot, who plays Bottom/Pyramus.

She previously has been an ensemble member in “Guys and Dolls,” “Kiss Me Kate,” and “The Music Man.”

Hardy-Bingham said she is proud to be the “captain of this ship,” adding that she hopes to see a wide range of theater-lovers in the audience.

“My hope is that the production will bring the true Shakespeare enthusiast, the novice of his work, and everyone in between to enjoy a wonderful evening of theater that they will not soon forget.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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