What qualities would you look for in casting the actors playing Helena and Hermia and how would you direct the opening scene of the play in order to convey their similarities and/or differences to an audience?

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Stacey Barlow

What qualities would you look for in casting the actors playing Helena and Hermia and how would you direct the opening scene of the play in order to convey their similarities and/or differences to an audience?

Helena and Hermia are the young women involved in the confusing love tangle that develops through the play.  They were very close when young and have been friends for a while so they are likely to be similar in ways but yet different in others.

When casting Helena I would cast her as a tall young woman.  I would do the opposite when casting Hermia and have her has a short young woman.  I decided to have this difference because it is indicated in the text that they are physically like this. I.e. in Act 3, Scene 2 they are arguing.  Hermia is often referred to as “dwarfish” or “little”.  Helena is referred to as a “painted maypole” which suggests she is tall.  It also suggests that she wears a lot of make-up.  I would therefore have both the young women as very pretty; but Hermia would have more natural beauty whereas Helena would need make-up to make her stunning.  This would give Helena a reason for why Demetrius’ affection is with Hermia, and so a reason for wanting to look like her.  I would also have Hermia as dark skinned and short dark haired because in the play she is referred to as an “ethiop”, which is a racist comment suggesting she is darker skinned.  To contrast this I would have Helena with long blonde hair and pale skin.  Both women should have slim attractive bodies, to show some similarity.

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I would use costume to associate their similarities by having them dressed the same.  They would both wear feminine Athenian garments, which fit in with the setting of the play.  The garments would be white to represent their young innocence.  The garments would be simple so that the actors playing Hermia and Helena will feel comfortable and would be able to move freely ( which is extremely important in the middle scenes where they do a lot of running and chasing).  

I would direct the two women to show their similarities and differences to the audience.  

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