A Midsummer Night’s Dream was my first experience with Shakespeare, and with the Summer Shakespeare program, so coming back to assistant direct it is all kinds of nostalgia. I was an incoming freshmen when the program did Midsummer six years ago, so I hardly knew anyone–at first. The only person I knew going into it was my older brother, who was also an assistant director (what are the odds?), but that quickly changed as the theatre community welcomed me with open arms. I met some of my closest friends–including my best friend–in that production, so Midsummer has always been a special play to me. Now, I get to watch friendships spark in the cast and crew of a new Midsummer, which will hopefully last as long as mine have–through high school and beyond.
Now that my role has changed–from an actor in the fairy ensemble to a director–I can
step back and appreciate all of the steps that are taken to get a cast engaged and a performance ready. I get to see the students building more trust towards one another, as we play games that focus on trust and imagination, which are vital to the world of theatre. I get to see the students become enthusiastic as we explain how our production of Midsummer is going to be like nothing they’ve done before. I get to see the students using their passion and imagination, tackling their characters and crew assignments with gusto to make the show as amazing as possible. Most importantly, I get to see the students grow as actors, technicians, Shakespeare enthusiasts, and people, helping each other create something much larger than themselves.
The students want to make something that they can be proud of, and as a director, my job is to channel their energy and harness it into something focused, thought-out, and loved. The assistant directors handle many of the managerial and logistical aspects of theatre, so that our rehearsals can be dedicated to the show and nothing else. Contacting places for car washes
and rehearsals, editing and blocking parts of the script, organizing people’s schedules, helping the director organize his thoughts, and printing out the hundreds of handouts about Shakespeare are all done by the assistants outside of class time, so that what does get done in class happens as efficiently as it can. Of course, the students put in a lot of work outside of class time as well: building costumes, memorizing lines, doing character analysis, selling ads, and fundraising at different events are all tacked on to the Summer Shakespeare experience. Despite this extra work, people never complain–it helps to unite them as a cast and crew, and makes them feel connected to the program, to the 30 years of Summer Shakespeare’s history.
Our production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is going to be radically different than anything Summer Shakespeare has done in the past, which is both terrifying and electrifying. We are performing Midsummer in the woods, at a venue with
one indoor location and three outdoor locations, of which we are performing in all four. The audience will move around from location to location, following the characters as they enter the woods and get horribly lost (in many ways) as they go. We are also setting Midsummer in modern, performing as if it was happening today – something that no one in our production has done before. It is new territory for everyone, and thinking about how we accomplish these ideas has been a collaborative effort every step of the way. We have asked the cast about how to set an Elizabethan play in 2016, how to let an audience know that they are moving in the middle of a performance, and how to stage a play so that it is both funny and genuine: a little over-the-top, but believable. And there has been a constant stream of ideas and feedback along the way.
Come see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Refuge, on 1000 N. Ballard Road, from July 21st-24th and July 28th-31st at 7:30 pm!