CAST Performance in Shakespeare’s Nightclub
When people hear the name Shakespeare, they tend to think of old-fashioned clothing and traditional plays. The group with the Cambridge University American Stage Tour (CAST) had a completely different take on Shakespeare. CAST performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Performing Arts Center on Monday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. While most people, including Shakespeare himself, imagined this play in the middle of a forest, the director from CAST, Lucy Moss, pictured something else. “She thought of the forest as a nightclub or a bar,” said Katurah Morrish, who plays Hermia, one of the four lovers in the show. “This is exactly what the director always thought the play was about.” Morrish said that Moss thought of the play as taking place in a nightclub before she even considered directing for CAST.
Even before the show began, the audience knew it was going to be a different experience of Shakespeare altogether. The set was simply a neon-lit box that resembled a cage. The neon lights automatically gave the feel of a nightclub. The music that was blasting through the speakers was music that can be heard on the radio today. The actors were often seen dancing in the background of the scene while they weren’t acting. The show worked surprisingly well in a nightclub. “The Helena/Hermia argument is just like girls in a nightclub,” Morrish said. The play may not have been written for a nightclub, but it worked and it worked well. A couple times throughout the show, an actor would step to the front of the stage and begin to sing a song. William Ashford, an actor who played many roles, was the first to do this when he stood alone and sang part of Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” The audience could not get enough of the atmosphere that surrounded this show. One of the biggest changes to the show is not necessarily tied to the nightclub decision. The character of Nick Bottom, who is traditionally a man, was cast as a woman. Helen Vella Taylor played Bottom, and she owned the stage whenever she was on it. The director did not originally have the idea of casting Bottom as a woman, but when Vella Taylor auditioned, she knew that she was this production’s Bottom.
The group has been traveling the United States since late September and their schedule is nonstop. “I would say that it’s really exciting and tiring at the same time,” Morrish said of the tour. “You don’t want to miss any of it.” CAST traveled to Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania before coming to Maryland. After Maryland, they still have New York, Connecticut, and the Cayman Islands to go before they finally go back home to Cambridge. Morrish described what it’s like traveling a new country with so many people. “It really tests the dynamic of the group we’re in,” Morrish said. “It’s been really satisfying to see how tight we all are.” The group is still very close and they love performing together. “I reckon we could do the first two scenes as each other,” Harry Redding, who plays Lysander, told Morrish. If they weren’t playing the characters they are, the actors already knew who else they would want to play. “I love playing Hermia in this show, but I love Puck,” Morrish said. “If I were to write an essay about the play, I would quote Puck a lot.” Puck seems to always be a fan favorite, but he also seems to be a cast favorite. “I would play Puck or Bottom,” Redding said.
Overall, CAST had a great time being here, and Frostburg was lucky to be able to host them again. “Frostburg is so beautiful,” Morrish said. If you missed this show, make sure to look out for the possibility of their show next year at Frostburg, when we would be lucky to have them back.