Students take on Shakespeare classic

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Westside students Josh Longacre and Sara Sherwood are getting ready for their school's big production. Puck for centuries has been known as an impish fairy who meddles in mortals’ love affairs in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Though still mischievous, the “merry wanderer of the night” is a magical acrobat in Westside Christian High’s rendition of the fanciful play, which opens Friday, and his home isn’t a surrealistic forest as in the original. He’s also not a “he.”

Director Zachary Olson is shifting his “Dream” into the 20th century, setting the romantic-comedy in the 1920s and reimagining the fey folk as performers in an enchanted circus in America. While sifting through online images to spark a concept to shape the Westside version, Olson came across some photos of 1920s REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Westside students are rehearsing for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' which opens Friday: front center, Josh Longacre; back row, from left, Ki Ryeong Park, Charlotte Richie, Manjie Zhang, Chantel Smith, and Sara Sherwood.

“I think that a play can be relevant in any decade or any time frame — a well-written play and a well-produced play,” he said.

Because more female students auditioned than “Dream” had parts for, he cast a girl, junior Amy Davis, as Puck. Davis’ fairy dresses in a yellow-and-white tutu and dramatizes scenes with swirls of a rhythmic gymnast’s ribbon.

“I’m taking inspiration from Tinker Bell where I like to mess with people like Tinker Bell messes with Wendy, and I kind of find it amusing,” Davis said.

She came up with the idea after hearing Olson tell senior Nathan Longacre (Oberon) to think of his character as Peter Pan-like. Puck serves Oberon, much as Tink aids the forever REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Some characters in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' live in a  magical world, which Westside students have brought to life: From left, students are Sara Sherwood, Nathan Longacre, Christopher Kaetzel, Rachael Stefan, Caden Reed, Philip Mesa and Kimberly Vreugdenhil.

In Westside’s “Dream,” Oberon has become the ringmaster of the circus. Sara Sherwood is Titania, once the fairy queen and, in Westside’s fall production, a fortune-teller.

Sherwood, a senior, said her character is a strong woman.

“She’s taught me to be independent and stand up for what I believe in because she’s a very independent character in the play, especially in regards to her husband,” Sherwood said.

In Act 2, Scene 1, Oberon calls his wife “proud Titania” and, in response to a suspected indiscretion, she says, “I have forsworn his bed and company.” She also refuses to relinquish to him a child she’s stolen from an Indian king. Oberon wants the boy to be one of his followers.

In Olson’s take on “Dream,” two young mortal men fall for one pretty flapper, Hermia. Her friend, Helena, pines for Demetrius, her ex-fiancé and one of Hermia’s admirers.

Hermia’s father is threatening her with death or life in a convent if she refuses to marry Demetrius. She escapes the town of Athens with her true love, Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius follow, finding themselves in a strange circus.

The gender clashes threaded through the iconic Shakespearean classic are powerful and echo aspects of today’s culture. Olson removed the racially offensive language, although it remains mostly Elizabethan.

“I like to make things a little more appropriate and approachable to the audience.” Olson said.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @jilliandaley.

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