We Players has adapted Shakespeare’s classic into Midsummer of Love, a retelling of humans, gods, and fairies falling in and out of love, and wrestling with how they handle consent, cruelty, and control. Company founder Ava Roy says there are two very different settings for this production, atop Strawberry Hill in Golden Gate Park, and in the East Bay at Kennedy Grove in El Sobrante.
There’s more information at the We Players website.
Roy founded the company in 2000, when she was an undergraduate at Stanford. Since then, she’s found outdoor settings for plays that deeply integrate with the action. For this production, what was a large cast in the original has been narrowed to six, but there’s doubling and overlapping. “There are two Pucks,” Roy says. “When they’re at odds, or when they’re divided, they’re Oberon and Titania. But they’re able to sort of merge into this kind of one powerful magical being, which is this two-bodied Puck.” The ‘mechanicals’ are the actors of the play within the play, and the four of them lead the audience from the trailhead below to the top of Strawberry Hill. They tell the audience they’re about to rehearse, “…they drop their props and costumes, and they set up to start rehearsing their play. At that point, two Pucks arrive, then they turn the mechanicals into the lovers, which is how these four mechanicals end up playing the four lovers as well.” The involvement – and movement – of the audience is an important part of the process, Roy says. “Getting the audience to move and participate in ways that are unusual in a normal or traditional theater setting… Essentially that’s about engaging the full sensory apparatus, so that you’re not just listening and watching and engaging with the show intellectually and cerebrally, but that you’re also physically moving your body, and you’re getting your blood pumping. It’s really about trying to awaken our senses, and become more present in what’s happening in the environment, and hopefully with the performance.”
Photo credit: Lauren Matley