HUDSON — It is 3:10 p.m. on a Thursday, and while many at David J. Quinn Middle School are heading home for the day, there is a small group of teachers and staff gathered in the cafeteria doing a table read of Act Five of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
They head up to the stage, where they are co-directed on their blocking and entrances by English language arts teacher Caitlin Lahey.
Today, they are doing a runthrough of the play-within-a-play in William Shakespeare’s comedy telling the tale of two lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, who have a literal wall between them.
The actors play everything from moonshine to a lion, and despite the subject of the play, the laughter is contagious and palpable for every actor on stage.
Brian Kubicek, who plays Pyramus and teaches sixth grade ELA, explained that for years they have brought students to a live performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” put on by a professional theater company in the state.
This year, Kubicek and Lahey hit a snag on those plans as nobody was performing the play at a time that fit for them.
“Caitlin and I both believe that seeing a work of dramatic literature performed live is an essential part of understanding the true power of this genre,” said Kubicek.
Lucky for their students, they both had theater experience in high school and are still active in local theater. They will debut their production on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Hudson High School.
After doing theater as a child, Lahey is now a part of the Worcester County Light Opera Company. She has acted, assistant directed and worked as a producer.
“I love all kinds of theater, but my personal favorite is to act in comedy,” she said. “Part of the reason we love doing ‘Midsummer’ with the kids is because it is full of physical comedy and mistaken identities.”
Kubicek participated in community theater where he grew up in Wisconsin and the Calliope Theatre in Boylston. He considers doing high school drama to be “the best part of my high school experience.”
“We thought we could bring this experience and passion to produce, at the very least, an entertaining rendering of this play,” he said. “Additionally, we are hoping to use this performance to raise funds for the performing arts program at the middle school.”
Lahey called theater “magic” and said that word describes how an audience can be transported to a different time and place to experience a story about “what makes us human.” Students are living the story with the characters on stage, she added.
“I have long believed that stories are the purest, most effective way to understand life. We are only ever able to live one life, but when we participate in a story we expand that potential,” Lahey said. “Theater makes the stories viscerally real.”
Quinn Middle School Principal Jeff Gaglione, who agreed to help with the production, believed “it is important for students to see the things they are reading come to life.”
He added, “The performing arts is an area that many do not get a chance to experience.”
Kubicek said it has been an incredible time with staff rehearsals.
“It has been a true pleasure to get to know some of my colleagues in a new way,” he said. “Seeing them outside of their professional role, taking risks and being silly, has helped deepen our connection and made us better educators.”
Gaglione, who plays Moonshine, said there are over 25 staff members, including himself, who are acting in the play and rehearsing twice a week. He said he had no acting experience, but “mercifully I have a small part.”
Lahey said it has been a joy to put on the play and that the staff members volunteering their time shows “the kids that it’s never too late to put yourself out there.”
When they made the call for teachers to participate in the play, Kubicek said they “did so with trepidation” because of the pressure already put on teachers’ time.
“What we got was overwhelming support and enthusiasm. The teachers of Quinn showed up in a big way,” he said. “The energy and silliness that everybody has brought to rehearsals have made them the highlight of each week.”
Sixth grade science teacher Maggie Woodcome, who plays the Wall, said the play is for the kids and is really excited to be a part of it.
She joked, “I would only participate if I was the wall. The kids are going to enjoy it.”
John Klayman, an intern in the school psychology department who played Thisbe, said he was excited to get his part and “jumped at the opportunity.”
He added, “I just like the community here.”
Lindsay Sousa, a sixth grade English language development teacher, acted in high school and college and saw playing Puck as an opportunity to do it again. She said seeing the play will make the story come alive for the kids.
“Puck causes a lot of trouble and creates change,” said Sousa. “It’s just a really fun role because I get to be mischievous and playful.”
She hoped students see a different side to their teachers by watching them in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She gave a huge thank you to Lahey and Kubicek for creating “this wonderful space to play together.”
Kubicek said students will get a deeper understanding of the play and “how silly and beautiful it is.”
He said, “The students will get a chance to see their teachers in a new light, doing something they love outside of the classroom.”
Lahey added, “I am hopeful that it may inspire a few more kids to take a risk and get involved in theater.”