Romeo and Juliet: Stormy Opening Yesterday

What an unpredictable opening day for this show! Our director, John Nagle, has nerves of steel.

As background, on Friday (two days ago) there were predictions of isolated potentially strong thunderstorms for Saturday afternoon and evening.  Since we do not have an indoor venue option in the case of rain, we were looking at the possibility of cancelling the show on our opening night.

The Bridge Closing

Bob (Friar Lawrence) and I (Montague and Friar John) car pool up from Montpelier and yesterday as we motored up I-89 in relatively good shape time wise for our 3PM call in North Hero, we got a call from our excellent Stage Manager, Stephanie, informing us that the draw bridge connecting Grand Isle to North Hero was stuck in the up position, and that we needed to drive all the way up to Swanton and over to Alberg to connect with Route 2 to access the venue at Knight’s Point State Park from the other direction. This added another hour to the trip, but what choice was there? Stephanie assured us that the bridge would be fixed in “a couple hours” so it was probably not going to be a problem for our audience. But at that time, who knew?

In the extra hour of gorgeous driving Bob and I chuckled over the absurdity of the situation.  Being prone to doomsday pessimism when I get anxious, I was pretty sure the bridge would not be fixed in time for the show and this would be the show that got cancelled for a stuck drawbridge. It’s the kind of thing that might provide “sweet discourses in times to come” but sucks downright at the time.

As Bob and I drove on, at least the weather looked to be improving (it had been raining hard when I left my home in Plainfield around one o’clock).  The clouds dissipated and there was nothing but blue sky over the Adirondacks to our west.

By the time we arrived at Knight Point, the bridge was already fixed! It was one of those absurd bad news/good news moments, bad news that we had unnecessarily driven an extra hour, good news that the bridge was not going to prevent the audience from getting to the venue.

Sturm and Drang

The weather was still beautiful when the show began at six, some white puffy clouds against a pristine blue background. The temperature was about 70*, a welcome relief from the 90*+ humid weather from earlier in the week, especially for me as I wear a woolen three piece suit as Montague.

Darker clouds started moving in just after the balcony scene. The first cracks of thunder rumbled in the distance at the point the play turned dark: the killings of Mercutio and Tybalt. The effect was chilling.

We hurried though the intermission as the thunder continued and I think everyone was wondering the same thing—are we about to get slammed by a huge storm? When are they going to call it off? Early in the second half, six or eight audience members folded up their chairs and headed to the parking lot. Our director John, the man ultimately in charge of calling off the show, stood behind the audience and waited. He appeared much calmer than I was, as I obsessively tried to pull a Doppler image of the storm onto my iPad, to no avail. About this time, I started counting off the time lag between the lightning and the sound of the thunder. One hit was about a mile away, on Grand Isle to our east.

But the clouds were moving from west to east; that part of the storm was beyond us already and the sky immediately over us and to our west was lighter and even though we could see heavy downpours over Grand Isle, it never rained at the performance. 95% of the audience stuck it out, and they were rewarded with a unique experience of the play. As one example, an ironic gust of wind fluttered Juliet’s dress as she fell lifeless onto the bier. Lightning and thunder receded in the background as the prince concluded the play: “A glooming peace this morning with it brings.”

And then the audience gave us a standing ovation.

Yes, the actors were fantastic, the costumes are beautiful, and the designed sound adds much to the drama. I don’t want to take any credit away from any of the people who made these things happen.

But here’s the point of this post: great job, John.  You contained so much uncertainty and potential danger last night and in so doing provided your audience with an unforgettable experience of this master work.

It’s going to be a great run.

Written by Peter Young, Lord Montague/Friar John 

The Moment Before

Smiling uncontrollably. Sweaty palms. Pupils dilated. Vocal explosions. Dizziness. Over analyzing. Unexpected laughter. Nausea. Limerence. Mood swings. Slight irrational behavior. Adrenaline. Lack of concentration. A hurting heart. OxyContin. Mirroring. Staring. Singing. Daydreaming. Head tilts of a different meaning. A fingertip caress. Rapid-eye blinking. Butterflies. Jeffrey Gaines’ “In Your Eyes”. Rihanna’s “Hate That I Love You”. Savage Garden’s “I Knew I Loved You”. Chris Brown’s “With You”. The “Spring Awakening” soundtrack. Soulja Boy Tell Em’s “Kiss Me Thru the Phone”. Any Usher song. Nickelback’s “Far Away”. “I don’t want to miss a thing cause with every breath you take I’m falling slowly.”

Now, her. That look. That godly smell. The taste of strawberries. She feels like a light warm silky pillow. What about her hair? God, I love how she does her hair. Is that a headband in her hair or a little crown? I don’t know, but it looks great. How fast can I kiss her without…forget the “without”…how fast can I kiss her! I’ll let her speak, though. Her voice is that of an angel calling me…making my temperature rise…lifting me off the ground. That is a silly wall. What a silly wall. Does this wall think it’s going to stop me? Get out of the way, wall. I shall climb over you. Just know that at the top, with one leg over, my junk is literally on top of you…so who’s the boss now? Faintly, I can hear my friends in the distance. Whatever. They don’t understand this overwhelming feeling. When I see her in my head, all I can see is her eyes. Her eyes looking at me. Her eyes looking at anything. Her eyes on the face of our child. I went there. But I can’t not go there. That smile. She could cure a thousand diseases with a smile like that. It makes me smile. It makes her cheeks push out and blush and her nose pinches up and her eyes close and her mouth opens. Her mouth! I thought this. I can’t believe I thought this. But every time she spoke, I wondered how I could fit in the space between her tongue and her top teeth. Every time her mouth opened and closed, it was as if I was being shown a room. A temple. I could live there forever. Easy. And what she spoke! It would have made no difference if she spoke nonsense, but she didn’t. She’s smart. So smart. So freaking smart. I bet she can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under a minute. God, I suck at those. All I do know, is that I have to find her and see her again. Somehow make her mine. So that every day is her day, every waking moment is a dream, and every beat…is her heartbeat. I’m in love.

All these thoughts and songs and words and feelings in the moment before. In the acting world, the “moment before” is an essential part of the preparation process. It involves figuring out what happened right before you came onstage. What emotions, thoughts, events, conditions do you have seconds before you walk on. It can spring board you into a scene allowing you to continue what you were doing or thinking previously rather than starting something new…which does not exist in the real world. No one starts out their life by appearing in the thin air, opening a door that is now in front of you and confidently saying the phrase, “Honey! I’m home.”. No. “Honey! I’m home.”, is a line influenced by how your day at work went, how was the drive home, did you receive any news from the car to the door, how is your marriage going…etc…

I say all this because preparing Romeo’s “moments before” have been weird and delightful to work on. It’s not often do you PREPARE to fall in love as hard as these two do. I mean to the death. And so quick. WITH SO MUCH PASSION. It’s almost magical. It ‘s fate. His “moments before” light me on fire. Seriously. Stop what you were going to do. Stop reading this “blog”. Immediately, go online and type in “the balcony scene”. If you’re with someone in the room, great. If you’re alone, that’s great too. But before you click that blue link spiraling you to one of the most famous love scenes of all time, and before you read it, think of your Juliet or your Romeo. See them. Imagine them. Think of the thoughts and songs and words and feelings in the moment before this scene. Before the scene with the love of your life.

Go there. Every human being should go there.

Posted by Nick Piacente, Romeo / Education Coordinator and Company Member

Expectations

For two weeks, I have been revising and editing a post on my VSC story, and just today I decided to throw it out and start fresh. My laptop has just given me a warning that it has a low battery, which makes sense because I’ve been on it all day. I’ve been stopping and starting this post as I receive emails on VIP mailings, meetings, and meal donations. I also just fell down the stairs in my house, resulting in me typing most of this one-handed as I ice my other hand to reduce swelling. A day in the life of an assistant producer, I guess.

I never expected that I would end up in this role for the VSC, especially not when I first applied for the internship program in 2013. To be completely honest, I applied because my high school required a project called Graduation Challenge where a senior needs to complete 70 hours of doing something they’ve never done before, write the longest paper of their academic life on it, and give a ten-minute presentation on it, or else they won’t graduate. Most seniors do something like yoga or writing a blog, but those weren’t options for me because my brother did yoga and my sister did writing a blog.  So, I went with the first option I got that actually interested me: a piece of paper handed to me by my acting teacher, Robin Fawcett, advertising for an internship program with the Vermont Shakespeare Company.

Yup, I joined the VSC so that I could graduate high school.

Kind of a selfish reason, I know, but if junior year Zoey had known how much this experience would change her life, I don’t think she would have had the courage to apply. I expected to have an amazing learning experience. I didn’t expect to have an amazing living experience. I expected to gain connections. I didn’t expect to gain friends that I will have for the rest of my life.

The Fellowship (minus Pippin)

The Fellowship (minus Pippin)

But then again, if there’s anything I’ve learned about life, it’s that things don’t always turn out like you expect. Having just came out of my first year of college alive, I think I’m entitled to say that freshman year is one of the hardest years of a person’s life. At least, it was for me. When I first went to Drew, I knew nobody. Barely anybody on my floor knew where Vermont was, so I was known as “the girl from Canada” for the better part of a month. I felt lost trying to establish connections in a brand new place. Then, one day, I saw a VSC cast member on campus. We didn’t talk for long, but just seeing him gave me new energy. I remembered who I was and that I had a group of people who loved and supported me not because they had to or because they were my blood, but because they chose to. That year, through headaches from studying, muscle aches from stage combat, and heartaches from bad decisions, (pains I now know I had to have to make me who I am today), I knew who I could rely on to remind me of my heart.

I didn’t expect to change so much over the last year. I don’t think I’d recognize my current self if I’d met her a year ago. I definitely didn’t expect that I would change my major from Theatre to Art with a concentration in Film. Most of all, I didn’t expect that in one of my hardest times I would write the VSC and ask to intern again this summer. I thought maybe I would have moved on like the rest of my original 2013 intern team known as The Fellowship. There were nine of us and we each had a nickname from The Lord of the Rings. Mine was Frodo, for the obvious reason that I’m 4’11”. But perhaps it was for another reason. Perhaps it was because Frodo was the one who had to see the mission through.

Sometimes I wonder what I’ll do without the interns I have worked with in the past, especially the three that have been with me for two years. Who will set up the lighting for our outdoor locations instead of Alzi (Legolas)? Who will put up the draping around the pavilion at Knight’s Point State Park instead of Charlie (Sam)? And I know I will have to make sure everything goes to plan during mod pack up and keep all the interns in check instead of the incomparable Xoe (Gimli), but for once, I don’t know what to expect. And I don’t want to. This summer, I want to stop expecting and start living. I hope to pass on the reigns of intern to a deserving and passionate individual, then leave the Shire and journey on to my next great adventure.

But no expectations.

Written by Zoey Maleekah LaChance, Assistant Producer

Prepping, Planning and Plosives. Or, the month before our summer season begins

VSC Postcard 6 FINAL FRONT

Posted by Jena Necrason, Artistic Director.

There is so much to share. There is so much to worry about. And joyfully there is much to celebrate.

Our designers are amazing. They have continued to bring wonderful, evocative ideas to the creative table. We are working with a unit set for the first time. This means the set is built in pieces that fit together and can be put up in each of our 3 performance venues. The set will travel in a truck. Becky Bodurtha, our Costume Designer, (this will be Becky’s fifth year designing costumes for us), is hard at work on a style that is a “mash-up” of both modern and Elizabethan elements. I am grateful for the tour de force that is Gregory Ramos, Chair of the UVM Theatre Department. Gregory has worked extremely hard to make the collaboration between Vermont Shakespeare Company and the theatre department a reality.

As John prepares to direct the show, ideas and images are flowing. Our house is a place where at any moment a theatrical idea can erupt and interrupt a regular every day activity. This happens much to the chagrin of our almost-6-year-old, who sometimes loves it and often is annoyed by it.

In preparing to play the Nurse in the show, I am currently at the stages of “text analysis”. A process that while sometimes tedious, is incredibly enjoyable for me. Plosives, antithesis and feminine endings, oh my! Taking a break from my Artistic Director hat to dive back into the process of being an actor is certainly something for me to celebrate. The last time I performed with the company was as Ariel in The Tempest in 2012, truly one of my favorite roles to date.

Primary worry- CAN WE GET IT ALL DONE? Thankfully we have the talented Zoey LaChance as our full time intern this summer, in the role of assistant producer. How will attendance be this season? We rely so heavily on ticket sales. Marketing initiatives are a daily focus. Another worry- how will we survive this year without Xoe Perra (Intern Team ’10, performer ’12, Intern Team ’13, performer ’14) and Mark Roberts (company member since 2008). Both are working on other projects this summer and we will miss them dearly.

So, what to celebrate…well the fact that Vermont Shakespeare has survived for a decade is surely the biggest thing. In the world of non-profit theatre, this is huge. And the fact that we have a stellar cast lined up for this show is another thing to celebrate. And finally, it can’t be left out that we live in Vermont (full-time!) now.  I am thankful for this on a daily basis. The stunning beauty of this state is a constant reminder of how lucky we feel to be doing what we love in a place that we love.

As they say….”Don’t postpone joy.”

Stay tuned for more blog posts from cast and crew, coming soon.

TIME

TIME
picture
Jena Necrason
Artistic Director
October 16, 2014

John and I are making decisions on programming our 2015 season, the conversation is happening on the phone. We are on a deadline. John is at our home in Vermont. I am teaching in New York. We try to grab quick minutes on the phone, amidst the background distractions of our 5-year-old and the fire truck sirens in NY. I wonder, “Why are we talking about this NOW? Why can’t we find time to talk about it when we are in the same state!” There is never enough time. Most of the time we can devote to the company when we are together involves the daily work of running a non-profit arts organization, for which there are countless categories.

Overall, my most important job as Artistic Director of Vermont Shakespeare Company is to cultivate the vision and maintain the mission. And, very importantly I continue to define how our organization serves the community. A very large portion of my time in the nine months out of the year when we are in prep mode for our summer season will be spent raising money and writing grants. One must believe that anything is possible. This takes thoughtful analysis, rigorous follow-through and a willingness to break the rules. The pressure is ever-present. The challenges are unique and often thrilling. I consider myself lucky to be working in the field that I set out to work in. But, time is ever elusive.

I am brought back to a defining moment in high school.

Junior Year. 1985. Mrs. Edison’s English class.

The class was right after lunch. I remember this because she always talked about how tired we all were after eating. Various discussions about sugar highs and crashes. This stuck with me and resonates now when I am teaching my NYU students after their lunch break. Mrs. Edison had a soft spot for me; she liked the fact that I was a dancer. Plus, she knew my mother. She frequently said things like “Well lets ask Jennifer, how would a DANCER respond to this? What would a DANCER do?” We must have been reading something romantic or lyrical. One day she asked students to get up in front of the class and express gratitude. Some explored gestures, some verbal phrases other than “thank you”, when it was my turn I froze, feeling self-conscious. The only thing I could think to do was “reverence”. Something I had done in ballet class for my whole life.

REVERENCE: A bow or curtsy. The last exercises of a ballet class in which the ballet dancers pay respect to and acknowledge the teacher and pianist. Reverence usually includes bows, curtsies, and ports de bras, and is a way of celebrating ballet’s traditions of elegance and respect.

So, I did that. Then, to my horror (I was 16 after all, and although being a dancer would eventually define me as cool, at this point that was still questionable.) Mrs. Edison asked me to do it again. BUT SLOWER. “Oh God,” I thought, “ I am seriously walking the line here- on the precipice of being a teachers pet and an artsy geek.” So, I did it again and more slowly. And oddly it felt good. When I lifted my head I felt peaceful, and powerful. Hindsight reveals Mrs. Edison was attempting to teach us about taking your time when you want to truthfully express or create something.

Thirty years later, I experience (like so many of us) that there is never enough time to do the work that needs to be done. Never enough time to properly shape the vision, the agenda, or the paragraph in the grant application only allowing me 250 characters to say something profound about the work our theatre company has done for 10 years. Oh for a moment with Mrs. Edison. I bet she would offer an idea on how to make those 250 characters count.

Surviving the business of making theatre involves a nuanced understanding of time, in all its complicated glory. Because let’s face it, for all the moments where we feel under the gun and about to pull our hair out, there are those moments, inside the theatre, where time stands still. And we hold our breath in a collective moment of anticipation or grief or wonder. As theatre practitioners we learn to savor the moments of connection and accept that it will all get done. Somehow. I am deeply grateful for the things Vermont Shakespeare Company has accomplished, due in large part to the countless people who believe in our mission and offer their time and artistry to it.

If we make art, or make anything for that matter, if its something we love we try hard and find a way. Take our time. Earn the outcome. And throw in a slow reverence every once and a while. Thanks Mrs. Edison.

Musings on Midsummer

As we move into our 2nd performing venue of this season, many things are swimming through my mind:

Will it rain tomorrow?  (Yes, is the answer.  The forecast indicates 100% chance of rain).  I will hold out hope.  And alter things as necessary when tomorrow comes and decisions need to be made.

Will we get the audiences we are hoping for at our indoor performances at the Royall Tyler Theatre this weekend?  (?, This remains a question).

Will I manage to pull off looking good for my upcoming curtain speeches?  I don’t mean with what I am saying, but rather, you know, will I look GOOD?  As in hair, make-up, outfit.  Keep in mind that in previous seasons I have barely managed to get out of my work clothes before needing to throw a dress onto my sweaty body and run onstage to welcome our audience. 

In 2005, our inaugural season, I was backstage navigating a dressing room made of a tent from the 1950’s that my father had given us to use (which he had bought used at some point in my childhood).  It smelled like the 1950’s, as in “I have been around since the 1950’s, improperly stored in someone’s garage.”  In 2006, we had so much mud backstage that we had to place planking all through the woods for the actors to walk on (no easy feat).  In 2008, there was an ant infestation in the sand we had imported for the set.  In 2010, the bleachers in our audience were infested with bees.  BEES!  An issue that did not get eradicated until a mere two hours before the opening night audience arrived.  In 2012, when we did The Tempest, we had a tempest of rain, dressing room tents that almost blew away (with actors in them) and had to cancel two shows. In 2013 we navigated the land of performing in a city park, and had to battle the musical styling of the Black Crowes who were performing across the lake and whose music could be heard very clearly on our performance site. 

But through it all, we did Shakespeare, a gift to be able to do.  And had fun.  And learned more and more with each passing year.  And made friends, and created a theatre family. So, today as I sat in the audience area of our 2nd venue, the beautiful Shelburne Museum, the following things were not lost on me:  The space was quiet.  There is lush grass in our playing area for the actors to roll around in. A gorgeous landmark building surrounding the performance site that embraced and enhanced and lifted up our creative vision.   A (substantial) dressing room tent that had been provided and set up for us by the museum.   Lovely and helpful museum staff was around to assist us. We have come a long way.  These things seem simple but to John and I they are monumental.  And a tribute to keeping the faith.  Because, wow, there have been SO MANY times over this past 9 years where we almost threw in the towel.  Thinking, WHAT ARE WE DOING?   The sacrifices (personally, financially, professionally, not to mention time with our son) were overwhelming to us. But, and here is the biggest thing…. the consistent motivator through all the years has been THE ARTISTS WE WORK WITH, the amazing artists who dedicate themselves to the company for 5/6 weeks every summer.  Talented, inspiring, hard working, generous, giving (blood sweat and tears kind of giving- see above description of former seasons).  This truly is what keeps John and I afloat.  This year is no exception.  Our first summer we were a group of 12- designers, cast and crew.  This year we are a team of 32.  And it is quite a group.  Smiles and open hearts.  Dedication that goes above and beyond. We are lucky to do what we do.  It’s hard.  But I hope if we just keep saying yes, that it’s full potential will be realized.  When our five year old, who knows that mommy and daddy are “at Shakespeare”, asks us “Did you build Shakespeare? Did you build it with bricks and wood?”  We attempt to explain it in some historical frame.  And then we just say

“ Yes, we built it.  Mommy and Daddy built something.”

 

 Posted by Jena Necrason – Artistic Director

Family

To use a phrase from a buddy of mine when I was in college, I want to drop some “real-talk”. I tried to write something extremely elegant here. I had written half of a blog post that used a lot of fancy words and beautiful language. It was separated into various themes and I used the word “grow” a lot. My second most used word was “grows”. Not that I wanted to try and write in an artistic way and/or write like a true Vermonter…but I did. Ya got me. It’s beautiful up here in Vermont so I wanted my words in the post to match the exquisite and breath-taking views and experiences that Vermont offers.

But that’s not who I am. I’m a young man from Yonkers, New York. I know very little about the outdoors except my vast knowledge of Atlantic City, New Jersey, and I’m pretty sure cheese and boxed wine are the real deal up here. The reason that I am up here is because I am a member of a family. The Vermont Shakespeare Company. Run by husband and wife ultimate tag-team combo, Jena Necrason and John Nagle, the family atmosphere is always embraced. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my second full production with VSC and one of many times working with the company be it at readings in NYC or coming up for wine-tasting paired with Shakespearian-scenes fundraising events. I’ll be honest. I don’t come up here for the cheese. Beautiful as Vermont is, I don’t come up here for the view. I definitely don’t come up here for the money. I come up because VSC is my second family. My home away from home. I’m comfortable here. Always learning. Always having an amazing time. I’m protective of this theatre company as well. Not just because it was the company that gave me my first job right out of college, but because I just respect it so damn much. John and Jena are two of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, and I’m not just saying that for a role in next summer’s Shakespeare. Why are they inspiring? They truly care for their actors for starters. For the audience and community, they have founded a company that creates innovative ways of presenting Shakespeare with a STRONG emphasis on enacting positive change in the world. As an actor in this company, they use actors as human beings, always asking us to share ideas and experiences to further the artistic vision of the show and theatre company. Each summer consists of young and old company members but also brand new faces, old and young. It’s an ever-GROWING family. There’s that word. I tried. But let’s definitely use it here.

While playing Puck, I have been blessed to be the Education Coordinator this year for VSC. This year’s education component is the largest it’s ever been. Not only do we have a returning team of interns ranging from various ages of 14 and over, but through a brand new partnership with the University of Vermont, UVM students are a welcome addition to the internship program as well as some who are in fact performing in this year’s show. I’ve had the opportunity to teach some classes offered in the Professional Internship Program: a program consisting of classes such as Voice and Speech, Movement For Actors, Stage Combat, Business of Acting, Scene Study and Intro to Monologue Work, and from my experiences so far, I can honestly say that VSC is reaching the youth of the Vermont community in an extraordinary way. Aside from getting an accelerated and intense connection with one of Shakespeare’s great works, working side by side with theatre professionals, and learning of future career opportunities through workshops and immersion, VSC offers the youth of the Vermont community to be a part of their ever-growing family. Without their help, the show doesn’t get put up. Literally. And lastly, VSC embraces the family atmosphere to its supporters and audience members. It’s a place that wants its audiences full because it’s a theatre company reaching out with arms wide open. It’s the VERMONT Shakespeare Company. Vermont is its home. Everyone can be a family member. That includes the young attractive Price Chopper employee who winked at me yesterday…Chris, the manager of the Woolen Health Club gym, who strikes up a conversation with me every time I walk in even though he barely knows me…and even the various singers from The Mule Bar across the street who keep me up all night.

Lastly again, I’ve seen realizations and discoveries in class work in members of our ‘Intern Team” and wow, is it beautiful to watch. Discoveries about acting, life, art, love…and for me…Nick of Yonkers…that’s the beauty that lies up here. The discovery that I fully believe each one of us has here. That we are all a part of something. A family. A family that I am so proud to be a part of, working with people I am so lucky to know. I just dropped the mic. That’s how blogs work, right?

Posted by Nick Piacente, Puck/Education Coordinator and Company Member

Summer Shakespeare

The great outdoors. City parks. Old trees. Damp leaves. Bugs. Cold weather. 100 degrees. Unstable lawn chairs that squeak with every slight adjustment, or a thin, thin towel on the rock hard ground. No towel and a wet butt. Itchy – somehow constantly itchy. I perform some variation of this ritual every summer. But I never remember the bug bites the morning after, my mind is still stuck with Beatrice and Benedick, or gnarly Caliban rolling around on the ground. And each summer I return to see my favorites over and over again, to hear the poetry of Shakespeare’s words mingling with the fresh, cool, breeze, and to see the sun set during an engrossing fifth Act until the last line is delivered in darkness. What is it about Summer Shakespeare that never grows old?

Whatever it is, it pulled me away from the hustle and bustle of New York City this summer and threw me onto a questionable Mega Bus (only $33 round trip!) until I landed smack dab in the middle of Burlington in front of the Royall Tyler Theatre at UVM. I had come following my favorite teacher from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, where she and her husband are putting up the seventh season of their Vermont Shakespeare Company. The production: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Arriving at the first day of rehearsals was like entering into a family reunion. The cast is filled with all ages. Vince Rossano, who plays Snug and Egeus, was part of the Shakespeare festival that UVM held more than 20 years ago. Our actresses playing Hermia and a few of the fairies are current students at UVM in the midst of a degree in theatre. The myriad of experiences allows the company to compile together their unique artistic backgrounds and training into a language that makes sense to all and focuses on the challenge of telling this play. As the ASM my work is done in the audience, so every day I get to watch the imagination, the energy, and the creativity bouncing off the walls. It is a tribute to this unique family of actors.

Far from NYC, where a semester away from graduation, I was overcome with anxiety in anticipation for the next, wide open stage of my life. Riddled with self-doubt and fear of the unexpected, I was left wheeling, and questions of who I am and what I can do became excessive. The constant stimuli of the city – a place where comparison and competition is inevitable, and the nagging mantra of “work harder, be better, work harder” played in my head on repeat – only egged the problem on. I had to get out. Begging my teacher Jena to let me work with her and follow her to Vermont was my solution. And here I am.

When I have a spare hour I often walk down to the lake side, invigorated by the excitement of rehearsal. I breathe in the water; its vastness, the rhythmic behavior of the waves. Their largeness fills me with largeness, their beauty beckons me to see beauty, and their calming tones remind me that the world knows better. Surrounded by art, inspiration, and the stunning natural background of this incredible city, I am set free.

Summer Shakespeare is addictive because it contains the perfect pairing – nature and Shakespeare, Shakespeare and nature. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is filled with age old humor, age old tales, themes that never grow old: jealousy, love, power, butt jokes, sex jokes. Where better to place this play than in the setting from where it all derived? The trees, the grass, the delicious poetry, the tingling breeze – Summer Shakespeare is a reminder of our humanity.

 

Posted by Ella Smith, ASM/Intern