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'Dream' cast for dream play
It's the question that's on many lips – even if they haven't got the name quite right yet.
"What's happening with that Bard, er ...Shakespeare by the sea...thing down at Crescent Beach?"
The answer, happily, is that everything is full steam ahead for Beach House Theatre Society's debut production, A Midsummer Night's Dream, all set to transform a section of the Blackie Spit parking lot into a covered theatre space from Aug. 15 to 19.
Beach House artistic directors Candace Radcliffe and Rick Harmon report, as of this writing, that online ticket sales ($25 per seat, plus HST and service charges) should be up and running by the end of this month on the company's website (www.beachhousetheatre.org).
And – happily for those not quite ready for a Star Trek interpretation of Shakespeare's classic – they assure us Nicole Chartrand's production design and Linda Weston's costumes hew to a very traditional late medieval/Renaissance approach.
"Nicole's visual references will all be Elizabethan," said Harmon of the well-loved play in which denizens of the fairy realm, including King Oberon, Queen Titania and mischievous sprite Puck, play havoc with the lives of mortals in a mythical Athens that has always had more to do with bucolic Britain than the hills of Greece .
"It'll be very traditional and the setting will use as many elements of nature as possible – a lot of natural twigs and shrubs," he said.
"Nicole has some beautiful things in mind," said Radcliffe. "More than the stage set itself she's designing the whole look of the space. She's even designed beautiful entrance gates to make it look like an Elizabethan theatre."
Technical director Geoff McEvoy has also been busy trying to reconfigure the available space to accommodate the maximum number of seats to fill the demand for tickets – it's now up to 270 seats under the tent, they say.
Of the demand there can be little doubt.
"One woman called in a total panic because she'd heard it was sold out," Harmon said.
Even fundraisers for the company have been selling like proverbial hot cakes, they added, including the most recent pub night.
"When tickets went on sale (for the pub night) they sold out in a day – I couldn't even get one," said Harmon, laughing. "The community has supported us beyond our dreams."
A keen and energetic board and enthusiastic local sponsors have made it easy for them to concentrate on the myriad of details involved in the production, rather than having drop everything to go into fundraising mode, they said.
"We have to give a big thank you to our sponsors," Radcliffe said. "This wouldn't be happening without them."
As much as the community is giving to Beach House, the newly-minted theatre company wants to give back in opportunities for volunteers, particularly among young people on the Peninsula.
"One of the mandates of the company is to encourage youth to get involved," said Harmon. "The board put together a scholarship to recognize an outstanding contribution to stagecraft."
Due to shortage of time, it was offered this year only to students of Elgin Park Secondary and Clayton Heights Secondary, and grad Zachary Dallas, who has done extensive work in lighting, set design and construction with the Elgin Park Players since 2008.
"He's been with Stan (Elgin drama teacher Stan Engstrom) for years," Harmon said. "We're very excited – part of the scholarship is an opportunity to work with Geoff McEvoy on the technical side, maybe even as an assistant to Geoff."
Radcliffe, drama teacher at Earl Marriott, said she is also giving an opportunity to several of her younger students to appear as part of the fairy throng in the play.
The cast is also rich with Marriott grads who've worked as students with Radcliffe (or with Harmon, before his retirement from the school several years ago) and are continuing in professional theatre – and also with regular character actors from the Fraser Valley Gilbert & Sullivan Society (FVGSS), for whom Harmon has directed frequently over the years.
The result is a happy blend of experience, enthusiasm, talent and significant training, Radcliffe and Harmon said.
Anne VanLeeuwen, for example, who plays Helena, is appearing in the show during a brief hiatus from her training at New York's prestigious Circle In The Square, while Marina Benitez-Lazzarotto, who reprises the role of Puck she played in a notable 2005 Marriott production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, spent two years studying theatre in Paris.
James Walker (who plays the dual role of Oberon and Theseus, Duke of Athens) is not only a Marriott grad but also a notable scene-stealer in FVGSS shows, as are fellow cast members Reg Pillay (Snout), Paula Cooper (Peaseblossom), Adam Olgui (Quince) and Roger Hussen (Egeus).
Others well remembered from Marriott productions include Shayne Robinson (Demetrius), Russel Chartrand (Bottom), Rylan Schinkel Hermia), Nick Hugh (Lysander), Nicki Carbonneau (Starveling), Anna O' Brien (Cobweb) and Paul Richardson (Flute).
"They've picked it up very quickly," said Radcliffe of rehearsals, which are being hosted by Camp Alexandra. "We have it all blocked already."
"Many of them were off-book early on because they wanted to make the most of the physical comedy," Harmon said.
"It's pretty cool to see it coming together," Radclffe added.