Theater students gear up for bard’s tale

Livingston Parish Talented Theatre program student Jodi Bankston says theater lovers who come for the performance of Shakepeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which opens next week, can expect “magic, love, humor and so much more.”

The 18-year-old Walker High School senior has been gearing up for her role as Nick Bottom, the weaver, since January and said she is “so ready.”

“I’m not nervous (now),” Bankston said as she prepares for opening night at 6:30 p.m. May 9 at the new Live Oak High Theatre, 36079 La. 16, Denham Springs. “But I know that the second I get into costume and I am about to go on stage, it will hit me like a brick wall of nerves.”

Despite the impending wave of nervousness, Bankston said those feelings “keep me alert and on my toes, which helps with keeping up with my character.”

During the group’s rendition of the play, spells are cast, lovers are fooled and revelry flourishes as worlds collide in Shakespeare’s imaginative comedy, talented theater teacher Shane Stewart said.

“On a night when anything can happen, young lovers rouse their mischievous curiosity of fairies, which use their charm to lead the couple into a playful midnight frolic through the forest,” Stewart said. “In the midst of it all, an acting troupe gets caught up in the chaos when a magic spell turns their leading man into a donkey.

“One of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ blurs the line between magic and reality, leading to a night so fantastical you have to dream it to believe it.”

For Tate Sibley, the role of Lysander is a perfect match to his own personality, he said.

“He is probably my favorite character that I have ever played,” said Sibley, who has performed in theatrical productions for the past five years.

“Lysander is very ambitious and doesn’t like to be told there is something he can’t do, much like myself.

“For example, he is told that he cannot marry the love of his life because her father dislikes him,” the 17-year-old Walker High School senior said. “Her father would rather sentence her to death than allow her to marry him.

“So, he decides they should run away to his aunt, where they might escape her father’s wrath. This makes him headstrong as well.”

The audience can “expect a very comedic play that comes from an interesting mix up,” he said.

Shakespeare’s language flows and is “beautiful to listen to, but it is also surprisingly easy to understand when accompanied with the actions of the characters,” Sibley said.

Following opening night May 9 , performances will be at 7:30 p.m. May 10-11; and at 4:30 p.m. May 12.

Tickets, which can be purchased at the door, are $10.

The cast includes Madeline Miley, of Walker High, and Joey Carroll, of Live Oak High, as the Queen and King of the fairies, Titania and Oberon. Their band of fairies are played by Breli McCollister, of Live Oak Elementary; Mary-Claire Johnson, of Live Oak High; Cassidy Smith and Tyler Binard, both of Walker High. Kelsey Bergeron, of Walker High, will be playing the role of the mischievous Puck.

The star-crossed lovers are played by Brielle Pourciau, of Live Oak High, as Helena; Landon Hazel, of Walker High, as Demetrius; Megan Robertson, of Walker High, as Hermia; and Sibley, of Walker High, as Lysander. The Rude Mechanicals, who present the play within the play, are performed by Bankston as Bottom, Miranda Bordelon as Quince, Samantha Lichtenstein as Snout and Lauren Buchanan as Starveling. All are from Walker High.

Also members of this troupe are Haley Miller, of Live Oak High, as Flute; and Bailee Kelley, of Live Oak Middle, making her stage debut as Snug.

Rounding out the cast are Kelsey Murray playing Hippolyta, Kassidy Ortego playing Philostrate and Skyler McMorris playing Theseus, both of Walker High.

Justin Stafford, a past talented theater student, makes a cameo appearance as Egeus. Stafford is now at LSU.

The production is just one of many put on by talented theater students throughout the year. The group is composed of talented theater students from throughout the parish.

Miller seems to have found a way to balance her school work with acting.

“It does get difficult sometimes, but I always manage and never complain,” said the 14-year-old ninth-grade student, of Live Oak High.

The students agree the program has helped them, not just by improving their acting ability but by making them more outgoing and more willing to try new things.

Talented theater “has helped me become the person I am today,” Bankston said. “I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have theater.

“I am more outgoing. I’m not as scared to try new things and go to different places. I wouldn’t have much literature and culture in my life (without talented theatre). It’s opened new doors to me and it’s just every to me.”

Haley agrees. “I played a bunch of sports before I got into acting but never found anything to keep my interest,” Haley said. “But when I started acting, I loved it. Acting has given me something enjoyable to do after school.”

“I think it has helped me break out of my shell. I used to be very shy, but when I started acting, I opened up more and was more outgoing.”

For students interested in joining the program, Haley gave some simple advice.

“Don’t be afraid to break out of your shell and be yourself,” she said. “All great actors/actresses are weird — in a good way.”