Profile: Pioneer’s Josie Leydenfrost Believes In Dreams – And Even A Little Magic

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In William Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the character Puck is the closest thing to a protagonist. Puck’s antics and his sense of humor inject the story with a “playful and topsy-turvy spirit” that gives the play its funny bone.In that important and joyful role for this weekend’s Pioneer Theatre Guild’s presentation is Josie Leydenfrost. Knowing the role and knowing Leydenfrost, two words quickly come to mind – perfect casting.

“Puck is such a fun character to play,” says Leydenfrost, a senior at Pioneer High School. “I like to think of him as almost a rock star or a ringmaster because in a lot of ways he runs the show. He is the reason for the direction of the play and the mayhem that ensues.”

But Leydenfrost admits the part isn’t all fun and games – and it’s the challenging aspect that she is enjoying most of all.

“Playing Puck has definitely been a challenge for me,” she says. “I always find it testing trying to capture the full essence of a character and understanding how they move, speak, and discovering their wants or desires.

“In Puck’s case, there are two poles to the character. One of these poles is Puck’s individual strength as a renowned fairy who has a reputation of mischief. The other pole is the magnetic pull to Oberon, the fairy king. Puck serves Oberon and will do anything for him, but is still driven by a lot of self-intention.

“So the challenge is making sure that these differences come across, while justifying both behaviors.”

The Pioneer Theatre Guild’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens Thursday and continues with shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. PTG director and AAPS teacher Alex Leydenfrost will stage the production in the Little Theater at Pioneer High School.

And, yes, Josie is Alex’s daughter.

“Both of my parents are actors in the area,” Josie says. “My mom (Julia Glander) does quite a bit of work as well. My dad is the director for Midsummer.”

Alex Leydenfrost, who also is a resident artist at the Purple Rose Theatre Company, also directed “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller for the Pioneer Theatre Guild.

But there is more than having her dad as the director that gives her a family feeling when she’s on stage with the PTG.

“Pioneer Theatre Guild feels like my home turf and it means a lot to me,” she says. “It became the place for me to explore my identity, but also watch other people aspire and flourish. Theatre is one of the most accepting communities that I have come to know and in high school, finding a place where you feel welcome can be really hard and I think that PTG strives to be a safe space for expression.”

Her past PTG productions include: “Rock of Ages”, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, FutureStars 2017, “The Wizard of Oz”, FutureStars 2018, and “In The Heights”.

In addition to Pioneer Theatre Guild, she has participated in shows at Community Ensemble Theatre, is a member of the PTG Comedy Troupe and also is part of the Pioneer Student Council.

She says “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is “one of the most accessible” of Shakespeare’s plays. “People complain about Shakespeare writing sappy love stories and using language that they don’t understand,” she explains. “’Midsummer’ is the play where Shakespeare makes fun of himself. I think that people will enjoy how funny this play is because it’s funny! You don’t realize just how amusing it is until you see it onstage.

“Sure, there’s still a love story and Shakespeare still writes with a lot of complex language, but there is something for everyone to enjoy, no matter your age or knowledge level.”

When “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” concludes, Leydenfrost can continue working on her “dream.”

“I plan to continue to participate in PTG throughout the end of my high school career and I intend to study acting and theatre in college,” she says. “Theatre is such a powerful art form. I think that a story like ‘Midsummer’ is more relevant than ever because I think that people have very high expectations these days in what it means to be a successful person, but all of us have dreams that we want to come true.

“In ‘Midsummer’, the characters wander into the woods with expectations of how their plans will turn out, but they don’t consider outside effects and variables. People don’t believe in magic these days, but ‘Midsummer’ for me, is a reminder that things like magic are out of my control, that dreams can be brought to life depending on the lens that I look through and most significantly has opened me to a new plane of possibility.”

By Terry Jacoby