IT'S THE middle of summer and, well .... what better time to stage Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, eh? Hey-ooooo.
Except Savannah Stage Company is doing no ordinary production of the Bard’s beloved mélange of love, lust, fairies, and knuckleheaded “mechanicals.”
This show upstairs at Ampersand has a cast of only six actors, taking on 19 roles.
Not a typo: Nineteen roles.
The cast comprises Cree Michelle Rodgers, Evan Goetz, Sarah Alice Michael, Wesley Pridgen, Leah Coleman and John C. Arnold.
“Watching the actors take on the different roles is almost a show in and of itself,” says guest director David McCall of the adaptation by Carrie Smith Lewis.
For example, a single actor portrays one of the four young lovers at the heart of the play, one of the loveable mechanicals, and a character from the fairy world.
“We do the show basically in the round, so there are no hiding places to do costume changes,” says McCall.
Still, with the blistering pace the actors have to keep up, costumes are the least of their worries.
“We don’t have full costumes pieces—we use just enough costuming to suggest each character. We want to force the actors to discover the character through physicality,” McCall says.
“The showpiece of this production is the acting itself. I don’t want anybody feeling burden as actor to have to deliver a whole backstory for all these characters on top of them also being told, oh yeah, you have to wear a gangster’s hat, or something like that.”
McCall says the breakneck speed and the unconventional staging “fit into what Savannah Stage Company is all about: transparency and being accessible. We do everything right there in front of God and country.”
For those who don’t know the convoluted plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it centers on two pairs of hormonal young folk in an unnamed dream world partially inhabited by Amazons and fairies.
Demetrius and Lysander and Hermia and Helena take turns falling in love with each other, influenced by the magical meddling of the fairies—chiefly the iconic and, well, puckish character of Puck.
A running gag/subplot, which usually gets most of the laughs in the play, features a group of inept “mechanicals” rehearsing a play-within-the-play.
The setting is sort of Ancient Greece-meets-the-Shire, though McCall says “It’s kind of a time in and of itself. We avoid saying where it is specifically—we like to say it’s a ‘once upon a time kind of place.’”
This production of Midsummer Night’s Dream is unique in another way as well. Through a grant from the City of Savannah’s Weave-A-Dream program, Savannah Stage Company is taking the show to golden age centers throughout Savannah.