“Dreaming Brave and True” Debuts At Rehearsed Reading: Alumni Play Interprets Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” For Student Audience

Dreaming Brave and True_3By Nicole Noce

Elm Staff Writer

Upon entering Tawes Theatre on Oct. 3 and 4, the only objects on the stage were music stands on which the actors could place their scripts.

The stage was set for the cast of “Dreaming Brave and True,” a new play written by Stephen Spotswood, Class of 1999, and performed in Tawes as a rehearsed reading.

“In the end I did do a little staging to help the audience understand the relationships between the characters, but it was intentionally very minimal,” said Dale Daigle, production director, Professor of Drama, and director of Gibson Center for the Arts.

“Dreaming Brave and True” focuses on the lives of seven high school students all taking the same class for various reasons in a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Spotswood began writing “Dreaming Brave and True” in response to the American Shakespeare Center’s project Shakespeare’s New Contemporaries.

“‘Midsummer’ is probably my favorite Shakespeare play. With ‘Dreaming’, I get to play with ‘Midsummer’s themes of identity and subverting cultural norms in a way that honors the original play’s strengths, acknowledges its weaknesses, and gives my characters the chance for lasting change — something that Midsummer cheats on,” Spotswood said.

“Dreaming Brave and True” was workshopped on Sundays in September.

“The goal is to help the playwright discover what works, what doesn’t work, where the story is clear and where it is confusing. We also look for whether the characters are consistent through the course of the play,” Daigle said.

Sophomore Will Rotsch reflected on the difference between rehearsals for “Dreaming Brave and True” and his previous theater experiences.

“We would sit at a table and read through the show scene by scene and [Spotswood] would take notes on how the lines sounded when we read them and about parts of the scene that didn’t work,” he said.

This type of workshopping has benefits not only for the playwright, but for the actors as well.

“For the playwright, the advantage of hearing it out loud is huge. It has a different life when actors embody it,” Daigle said.

According to Spotswood, since WC students are only a few years removed from high school, having them read the roles of high school students informed him of moments when the characters felt untrue.

Rotsch felt that the workshopping influenced changes to the script, especially in regard to character development.

“The play we were originally given and the play we performed are two very different shows. The structure and characters are the same, but a lot more depth and genuine personality was added to the storyline,” he said.

“I’ve known Stephen a long time and he’s not insulted about criticism; he’s perfectly willing to just throw things out and move things in different directions, and he’s really good at it,” Daigle said.

According to Spotswood, having an audience listen to the play can be just as important as workshopping it.

“Even in a staged reading, you can tell where audiences are engaged and where their attention flags; what characters they attach themselves to; where the laughs are,” Spotswood said.

Unlike some plays, “Dreaming Brave and True” features a character who sings as part of her role.

“We talked about not doing the music because it’s not part of the language, but in fact it is part of the text of the play,” Daigle said.

Daigle emphasized that seeing how an audience reacts to moments involving music only further helps those involved determine what is working and what isn’t.

Wednesday and Thursday’s rehearsed reading is only the beginning for “Dreaming Brave and True.”

“[After Thursday’s performance] we talked about where we had to go from here. It’s definitely a work in progress,” Daigle said.

Sophomore Nic Job found performing a play in progress to be a valuable experience.

“It was a huge privilege to work with a playwright on a work in progress, and experience a workshop like this. We all learned a lot about the playwriting process,” she said.

“When this gets to the full production stage, I want it to be as tight and ready-to-produce as possible,” Spotswood said.

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