On Friday night, December 6, 2013, with only two months of training and rehearsals to ready its young performers, Synetic Theater staged an impressive opening night Teen production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
When thinking of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one tends to think of words … words written by Shakespeare. However, words are not the first things that come to mind when one thinks of Synetic Theater, because performances at Synetic tend to be of a physical nature. As the pre-eminent physical theater in the DC area, and perhaps the United States, Synetic Theater communicates onstage via text, drama, movement, acrobatics, dance, and music, and chooses to leave most words for the program.
Synetic’s Teen production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was directed by Alex Mills (original direction by Paata Tsikurishvili) and choreographed by Victoria Bertocci (original choreography by Irina Tsikurishvili). Both did a great job with the kids who, ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen and coming from backgrounds that may or may not have included formal dance training or previous experience in Synetic Theater productions, had a wide range of skills and experience. What impressed me in this challenging environment was really how many times I did see facial expression and emotional presence in sync with body motion, how many times I did see action and reaction, how many times I did see performers aware of their space and their time, how often I did see communication between performers, and how many times I did see and feel the connection between the performers and their audience.
The choreography in this production was highly challenging and exciting, with great visual moments. The opening scene began on a black stage lit only by small lights held in the hands of cast members performing group acrobatics center stage. Another great moment involved a cast member running in place within a space of light while framed paper screens moved towards him, allowing him to repeatedly leap through the bursting paper screens. a beautiful and magical moment when a character danced under an inverted conical light, wonderful romantic moments of dance between multiple couples positioned both up and down stage, and comic moments of conflict and chaos involving seduction, rejection, attraction, and love. Lighting, originally designed by Andrew F.Griffin, and executed in this production by Brittany Diliberto, was delightful in these moments and throughout the entire production.
The sets, costumes, and props, designed by Anastasia Rurikov Simes and Phill Giggey, were outstanding. At the back of the stage, lime green and internally lit cylindrical tubes of fabric hung from high in the air and reaching to the stage floor, all of this set against a contrasting dark curtain. The sweeping movement of these shapes was spectacular throughout the performance. The costumes were also perfect, as were the metallic fabric fans that were used so creatively throughout the performance.
It is sometimes unfair to point out exceptional performance in youth productions, as it is a simple fact that by age alone in the teen years, the development, skills, and experience between cast members makes huge differences in their abilities. This is especially true for ensemble members at the beginning stages of developing their raw talents, so I was delighted to see these young performers on stage. All of the lead characters did a wonderful job. Particularly impressive was Ana Tsikurishvili (Puck), an accomplished dancer whose exposure to physical theater from birth was clearly evident in her outstanding, energetic, and comedic performance. Eliza Smith is a beautiful dancer, and was very well cast as Titania, a role that particularly relied upon her advanced skill as a dancer.
It’s always a good thing when award-winning professional artists and arts organizations make investments in the future of the arts and of children by sharing their talents and resources in support of first-rate youth programming. As much as I did enjoy the teen production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the most exciting part of the evening for me (and deserving of 5 stars in and of itself) was learning from Paata Tsikurishvili that Synetic Theater is about to launch a new year-round training Synetic Studio Preparatory Program for Aspiring Dramatic Artists, a program whose focus will be on providing young and developing artists with a sustained opportunity to learn the underlying technique of communicating as artists through text, drama, movement, acrobatics, dance, and music.This program begins in January 2014.
DCMetroTheaterArts will post additional information on this program as it becomes available. In the meantime, interested students, parents, and teachers can obtain information on this wonderful training opportunity by contacting Educational Programs Manager Joseph Carlson at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (703) 824-8060.
Here are some special events:
2 pm on Sunday, December 8, 2013 – FAMILY DAY AND HOLIDAY PARTY
Immediately following the performance, join us in our new studio space, just down the hall from the theater for refreshments, Holiday-themed games and pictures with Santa!
11 am on Friday, December 13, 2013 – WEEKDAY MATINEE AND TALKBACK
Following the performance, chat with the actors, director and choreographer and ask them your questions about the show!
8 pm on Saturday, December 14, 2013 – TEEN NIGHT
Teens are invited to stay after the performance for a giant dance party on stage with the cast of the show! Free refreshments will be served in the lobby.