The McClay Performing Arts Center, the brand new building at Redmond Proficiency Academy, had its inauguration on October 28th with the opening of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The line outside the door captured the anticipation of community and family members alike to be the first to see the product of months of work and tireless preparation on the behalf of RPA theatre students and director Kate Torcom. With this being the first Shakespearean play at RPA, this group of talented students had some big shoes to fill. With this performance, however, they could have filled an entire closet.
A full house on opening night is a testament to the quality of the performance given in the McClay. Even though it was created in the same month the show opened, the new space created an intimate place where everyone felt free to say hello to each other. Thus the audience felt open to laughing and reacting - which they most definitely did. This comedic show about romance gone awry exceeded expectations.
The cast went above and beyond in this production. Present-day Central Oregon served as the setting for the play, and the background was kept simple: a flat painted like a mountain as the backdrop allowed the audience to focus on the Shakespearean language. George Hegarty, a humanities teacher at RPA, served as the Dramaturg for the production, and his, as well as the actors’, skill showed. The language was skillfully articulated and the emotion was clearly felt as seen by the visceral reactions throughout the audience. The wardrobe crew did an excellent job with symbolic costuming: as Demetrius is running from Helena and chasing after Hermia, he is in running clothes. Equally as symbolic, Lysander’s red jacket changing between each woman shows his affections shifting. The use of lighting to complement emotional scenes was excellent as well, and the choreography and stage directions of the play were both something that truly brings the audience into the story.
As the show progressed actors were coming from all sides and areas of the theatre: downstage, upstage, the back of the house, through the audience, and basically anywhere else you can think of. The choreography of the wedding and at the beginning of the show was well thought out. While Puck and the fairies were dancing, their quick, flitting, playful movements nicely reflected their character. The use of levels in scenes and while dancing offered much variety and kept the movement interesting. There was only one complaint among several audience members: due to the setup of the stage and chairs, as well as the levels of scenes, whenever any actors were on the ground those with seats in the back of the house could not see. However, this very seldom happened and, as the actors’ voices were filled with emotion, the feeling was still evident.
In her end notes, Torcom says “this production has just scratched the surface of the beauty of collaborative theatre when it truly incorporates our students’ many talents.” As an audience member, this was clearly seen as the production encompassed everything that one could wish for in a performance: talented actors, an excellent set, and artists of all disciplines. The endless praise of audience members did not cease until everyone had left the site, and even then I am sure the chatter of the truly impressive take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream will continue until the community gets the opportunity to see again the might of the cast and crew this spring.