I had the idea of putting on A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a park or a forest perhaps 10 years ago, long before I co-founded Eat The Cake, long before I put on shows with teenagers at the MJC in Crépy-En-Valois. It goes to show, dreams do come true one day or another if we keep thinking about them and watching for the right moment, the door that is ready to open, the opportunity that presents itself.
I believed that this auspicious moment was in 2019. I had a good group, the right number of young people to distribute the roles well. The director of the MJC, Lionel Vonck, was on board and supported me in my ambition to create A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare as an immersive promenade experience through the Parc de Geresme, the large, beautiful and natural park right next to the MJC (center for youth and culture). My collaborators at Eat The Cake thought it was a great idea too and they were ready to support me in designing and rewriting the play. We had started rehearsals and they were going well when Covid and the first confinement put an end to my dream. But it never left my mind and I knew that one day the opportunity would present itself again. And that is exactly what happened.
2021, Covid is still here but we manage it better. People are vaccinated and presumably we will not be forced to do online rehearsals like last year. I have the right number of high school students, a very close-knit group, very talented, some who have been following my theater workshops for 6 years. I have seen them grow and blossom; they are about to leave to begin their lives as young adults. I have a good group of middle school students too : young and dynamic, a little difficult at times because they're a bit dispersed, but they're good kids with a lot of potential and motivation. I tell myself this is the year, I can do it, they can do it.
I love Shakespeare and in particular A Midsummer Night's Dream, a play in which I myself have acted several times. But inevitably it loses something in the translation and that's probably why I didn't hesitate to rewrite a lot of the piece to make it more current, to reduce it a little (there was a lot of text to learn for high school students, even after all my cuts) and I even had to add a character, a role for a girl who signed up for the workshop a little late. (Ironically, this girl stopped coming a few weeks before the performances and I had to have another young actor play her role.) Lionel and I had decided to do 3 performances of the play because I thought it necessary to restrict the number of spectators to 50 to better manage them during the walk in the park. I was also happy that after all their work, the young people were going to be able to perform more than once.
It was a real challenge to stage this play, for me and for my young actors, who really gave all to make this play a success. But still, the day before we played, there were some who seemed to not quite know their lines. Others who could not be present for the last, most important rehearsals and then the weather forecast announced overcast and rainy weather for the Sunday when we were to play.
Of course, we could do the play inside; Camille Aveline had created and prepared the light and sound design to be able to do the whole play in the theater in case it rained heavily. But that would have been a shame. So I forced myself to keep the faith, to believe in the magic of theater and the talent of my students. Seven minutes from the start of the show I realized that I had forgotten Thisbe's wig and Starveling's lamp at home. Fortunately, I live nearby. I jump in my car, vroom! I arrive at my house and I run on the small path of the garden which goes up towards my house and there in front of me, lazing on the path, is a large grass snake. I really like snakes but seeing one like this, lying in my path, while I'm running, adrenaline in my veins, made me jump a meter in the air to avoid stepping on it and I cried out in surprise. I continued my race to get the things and on the way down, the snake was no longer there. I said to myself, "that's a good sign, snakes brought good luck in Roman times".
Indeed, the first performance went very well. The weather was nice, the young actors remembered their text and they acted really well. I was so moved with pride and happiness to see them having fun and giving a great show that my eyes were brimming with tears and there was a big smile on my lips. We were all eaten alive by mosquitoes but apart from this inconvenience of nature, the park gave us a setting that sublimated the text and the performances. With some adjustments, the 2nd and 3rd performances were even better than those that preceded them, even if at the 3rd and last performance on Wednesday evening, one of my students, the one who played Hippolyte, caught Covid (that again !) and I had to replace her.
The feedback we received from parents and other spectators was extremely complimentary and my students had a sense of pride, of accomplishment.
The senior high school students will be able to embark on their new adult life with self-confidence. And the others, I hope to see them at the start of the school year for new theatrical adventures. I am full of gratitude for these young people thanks to whom I finally realized my dream, my Midsummer Night's Dream. Now I have to start dreaming up next year's workshops.