This summer is turning into something that, at last, I could say has a magical element to it. I’m speaking of being an actor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is currently being performed in Inverness, CA.
San Francisco in the summer, at least for the locals, is a mix of fog, blasting wind, and indecisive sun. I didn’t know what to expect when I signed on to play Demetrius – except that my days would be spent in a stuffy office building by day, and by night, warm and toasty Marin county evenings, rehearsing past sundown while literally bringing out the flashlights. It reminded me of summers in Lenox, MA, when the fireflies made their presence known at dusk.The year has been full of a lot of auditions, near misses, and dashed hopes. LeAnne Rumbel and Sharron Drake reached out to me in early June and asked me if I’d be interested in taking part in the show. Of course, I accepted: I just had to work opposite of LeAnne as Helena, a force of her own, whom I’ve known for for over 20 years – and never worked with – and return to Shakespeare, which I’d taken two years away from.
And so, in late July, I found myself on a day trip out to Inverness to see the performance space, a beautiful outdoor amphitheater – overgrown with weeds and green growth everywhere, and full of potential. The space sits on the grounds of St. Columba Episcopal Church, and from the vantage point of the audience, has a beautiful view of Tomales Bay and the hills beyond.
Director Tina Taylor’s take on the Dream aims for simplicity in it’s acting, and does not try to kick the audience in the gut with gags. The cast is comprised of actors who are older than the characters (the Lovers are not teenagers or young adults), and it’s a production that feels instinctive and organic.
I did this play twenty years ago, and I was too young to play Peter Quince. Demetrius would have been right up my alley. I think I’ve found something about him that resonates with elements of my life. He’s a thinly drawn character, and is a plot device, (those are not the parallels I’m referring to) and it’s easy to play him as a jerk (not drawing any parallel there, either). But who wants to see something predictable. Hopefully people are seeing something they can relate to.
So, we opened. We sold out both shows last weekend. We had a standing ovation. It’s a wonderful thing to have the audience appreciate the literal sweat and tears we’ve put into this.
Working in a very bucolic setting, and listening to the silence of the area (it’s so quiet in Inverness), and watching the late afternoon sunlight be a character in the play reminds me of my summers as an actor at Shakespeare & Company. There are many parallels I’m noticing, from the guest house I stayed in last week, to the small town community of Pt. Reyes Station and Inverness, with it’s seaside charm, and the human connection – that seems to be missing throughout the Bay Area – it’s the perfect setting for Shakespeare.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through Sept. 5 in Inverness, CA. Event and ticket information can be found on Facebook. Tickets are $20.