Dickinson’s Mermaid Players and Department of Theatre and Dance performed “7 Ages of Shakespeare,” an outdoor theatrical performance featuring Dickinson students in a range of monologues, scenes, and songs by William Shakespeare. The performance opened on Morgan Field on Friday, Oct. 9, 2021, with performances also on Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 2 pm.
This was the first live, in-person production that the Mermaid Players and the Department of Theatre and Dance collaborated on since the Spring of 2020. Todd Wronski, Professor of Theatre and director of the show, says that as the first live production in over a year and a half, “7 Ages of Shakespeare” aims to “overcome the challenges of our particular moment.”
Hadley D’Esopo ’23, Vice President of the Mermaid Players and an actor in the production, said, “it was really great to get back to live theatre.”
Wronski and the Theatre Department originally planned to produce a series of ten one-act plays spanning each decade from the 1920s to the present. However, when Dickinson announced the official COVID-19 policies for the Fall semester, including an indoor mask mandate, the department pivoted, selecting “7 Ages of Shakespeare” as a replacement.
“We thrive on the liveliness of the theatre,” Wronski said, emphasizing how he felt that the Shakespearean montage was the best choice to maintain that liveliness.
With such a quick pivot, not to mention the continuing global pandemic, challenges were to be expected. One point of contention noted by D’Esopo was that the production could not open much later than the beginning of October. Since it was staged outside, the weather had to be mild for the weekend of the show. The trouble with that, according to D’Esopo, was that these conditions left the cast and crew with only four weeks to rehearse and set up the production.
The weather also posed a difficulty to the stage technicians, since, as Wronski put it, “rain and electrical cables are not a good combination.” Sound Engineer Oliver Reid-Miller ’25 noted that the performance would have had to be stopped, and the microphones and speakers turned off, if it rained during any of the shows.
The outdoor staging for this performance posed added technical problems as well. Reid-Miller describes the complicated process of setting up floor microphones to capture the sound of actors’ voices but not the movements of their feet.
Beyond technical difficulties, at least four of the actors were performing at Dickinson for the first time. One first-year actor, Carmen Rafalli ’25, expressed surprise at the level of involvement he was able to have in his very first show. Reid-Miller also said that he felt the show went “smoothly,” and that the group was able to “go with the flow” to face any challenges along the way. The involvement of younger students is intentional, according to D’Esopo, who says that “the [executive] board wants to make sure that all class years are able to participate fully.”
D’Esopo, an English major, was especially excited about the opportunity to “explore a bunch of different Shakespeare pieces in one production.” Wronski felt that the outdoor setting created a “festive sort of feeling,” a sentiment echoed by Rafalli, who said he just hoped the audience “had a good time.”
Coming off a lengthy hiatus, with a young cast and crew and many technical challenges, the Mermaid Players and the Department of Theatre and Dance put on a production with “an emphasis on the fun.”