Feingold ’17, Rude Mechanicals take on namesake show

by Josh Koenig | 5/10/15 6:01pm

This weekend, The Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals — the College’s student-run Shakespeare troupe — took to Fahey Courtyard to premiere three performances of their spring production, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Avery Feingold ’17, the group’s president and a two-year member of the troupe, reflected on the performance, the group’s choice to perform outdoors this spring and the near-inclusion of a reference to Netflix in the student performance.

It’s sometimes said that Shakespeare is hard to make accessible to College students. Do you work to modernize your shows, or do you let the works speak for themselves?

I think that we definitely deal with those issues a lot, and we think a lot about how much are we trying to make this accessible versus how much are we trying to be true to the text. We try not to edit the text — we do cut it every time we do a show, because very few college students want to sit through two and a half hours — but we try to stay fairly true to the original text. In [A Midsummer Night’s Dream], we used an iPhone, and we entertained at one point the idea of using Netflix — we’re always thinking creatively. I think anachronism is always kind of a funny thing that can be used in moderation in Shakespeare especially. When you bring in a very modern element that seems out of a place you can add a nice joke to it. [A Midsummer Night’s Dream] is nice because it kind of transcends time and place in some ways, so we were able to just kind of roll with it.

What was the rehearsal process like this spring? What were some of the challenges that arose?

We started right from the first week — we had already auditioned at the end of last term, so we knew who was playing what parts — and we came and we got together and we read through it. We had the script cut by the end of spring break, and that was kind of the defining step. We talked about what vision we had for it, what kind of theme we wanted to set to it. We talked about different locations that could be possibilities. And then from that point on, it was a matter of getting together and blocking individual scenes. At first we mostly worked three to four hours every weekend day, Saturdays and Sundays, and then once it got closer to show time we would start having more regular weekly rehearsals.

For the last three years, you’ve done shows outdoors in the spring. Is that a tradition? How did you select Fahey Courtyard as this year’s location, and where else did you consider?

I don’t know if it’s a tradition. I’ve only been in the group for two years -— I know that in the last three years we’ve done the BEMA, and then Kemeny Courtyard and now Fahey Courtyard. Using outdoor spaces is fun, and it draws people in who wouldn’t even necessarily expect to be going to a show. That was something I especially loved about “As You Like It” in Kemeny Courtyard last spring. I think Fahey really spoke to us [this year] because it’s a very dynamic space, with a lot of different uses and possibilities with a balcony, with pillars, and we had different creative ideas of how to utilize that space. And it also presented a nice stage front. Often though I think the outdoor space comes partially as a fact that outdoor spaces are better than indoor spaces because the indoor spaces we can get are usually suboptimal.

The Dartmouth Rude Mechanicals is an entirely student-run group. What’s the direction process like?

We co-direct all of the shows, so everyone is involved in the direction process. Whenever someone has a creative idea, they present it and we generally try it out. If people like it then we’ll stick with it or if there are conflicting ideas then we’ll talk as a group about them, and sometimes we’ll have to sit down and have a bigger conversation about whether we like the general direction this is going, whether it’s consistent. We don’t really have a set director. We have a position that is our artistic director, which varies in seriousness from term to term, anywhere from someone who breaks ties in the event of an equal vote to someone who has an entire vision for a show that we kind of stick to, but that requires a lot more work on that person’s part.

How do you think the performances of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” went this weekend?

I was — I wouldn’t say surprised, but I was very pleased with how [the performances] went on the whole. It was very hot all three days, and I think especially Sunday the heat really got to us. I found it personally at least hard to stand still on the brick barefoot — I was hopping back and forth. But...it was still dynamic. I think we really enjoyed having an audience there, and we fed off of their energy really well...We had really active, engaged audiences that were a pleasure to perform for and that really motivated us and helped us perform better.

As spring draws to a close, what are you looking forward to most for next year?

I think personally, what I’m looking forward to is seeing people audition for the group. That’s always my favorite, when [students]... come out and audition and we get to welcome new talent and see new talent. I think something that Dartmouth has down to a tee is the experience of being welcomed into a group, and that’s something that gives me the most pleasure...And we’ve got this incredibly talented and incredibly enthusiastic group of new members this year that have so much potential to put energy and do great things for this group.

This interview has been edited and condensed.