Shakespeare in the woods weaves magic, action, love, humor.
The statement has been uttered by many a lover over eons of time that the course of true love never runs smooth.
Forsooth, the line actually originated with William Shakespeare in his most popular play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Shakespeare’s enchanting, enduring comedy comes to Mammoth, nicknamed “A (Mammoth) Midsummer Night’s Dream,” for six woodsy performances August 8-10 and 15-17.
On an incomparable midsummer morning last week, with clouds feathering the sky, we chanced to meet with the play’s director, Susan Dalian, sitting at a table in the tent outside Black Velvet. Her puppy Inyo curled up into a contented circle and napped while we talked.
Dalian is an infectiously enthusiastic woman with sparkling eyes, who relocated to Mammoth about a year ago with her husband Tom Johnson, senior marketing manager for Mammoth Mountain, and their seven-year-old daughter Maya.
“I’m passionate about doing Shakespeare; it is accessible,” Dalian said. After all, the play is in English. “Listen, it’s a language you know. And it’s for all ages of audiences.”
For instance, she said, she did “Much Ado About Nothing” for kindergartners once. “They were captivated. They listened, they understood.”
With the language, with the multiple story lines happening at once, and stories within stories, “Shakespeare has to be directed well. You’ve got to know the arc,” she said.
According to the website midsummernightfilm.com/film-synopses.html, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream deals with the universal theme of love and its complications: lust, disappointment, confusion, marriage. The plot’s three stories are the trials and experiences of two sets of lovers camping in a magical forest; the world of the Fairy King and Queen and their elves; and a group of rough craftsmen attempting to stage a production for the wedding of the Duke of Athens.
“There is a handsome fairy king, a misguided parent, star-crossed lovers, a weaver who is transformed into a half-donkey, wood sprites and elves.
“Hermia (Sabrina Clevenger) is in love with Lysander (Jim Marcotte), but her father Theseus, the Duke (Chuck Scatolini), wants her to marry Demetrius (Jimmy Davoren). To escape the arranged marriage, she and Lysander elope into the woods. Demetrius follows them, and he is pursued by Helena (Erica Sutch), who nurses an unrequited passion for him. A twisting love quadrangle develops among the young lovers.
“Enter the mischievous Puck, playing Cupid (Kevin Worden). Soon all find their lives are changed by the doings of Oberon and Titania (Scatolini and Tanya Zaleschuk), the warring king and queen of the fairies.” (www.midsummernightfilm.com/film-synopses.html)
“A (Mammoth) Midsummer Night’s Dream” takes place in a mythical Mammoth rather than Athens. And for this sylvan production, Dalian has assembled a cast of about 20 locals.
“I’m so proud of this cast,” Dalian said. “I didn’t know what to expect. They are enthusiastic and glad to be part of something big and fun, and wanted to learn.”
“It’s wonderful to have someone with Susan’s professional experience to direct our community theater production—and it’s even better that it comes in the form of someone as resourceful, creative, kind and patient as Susan. She brings tremendous knowledge, energy, vision and style to the show,” said Stacy Corless, the show’s producer and Sierra Classic Theatre Board member.
“And our local actors are matching her efforts with amazing work of their own. True to the spirit of ‘Midsummer,’ there is definitely some magic happening onstage,” Corless added.
In addition to a local postal worker, a family of parents and kids, and a recent high school graduate, Kevin Worden plays the mischievous character of Puck. He’s having a ball, because of Puck’s physicality and hobgoblin personality. “Shakespeare allows Puck to take the other characters through a night of fantasy, misplaced passion and fairy fun,” he said.
“Susan is a fun and upbeat director,” said Worden, longtime drama teacher at Mammoth High School. “I am learning a lot from such an accomplished actress and director. She has been especially helpful with the intricacies of performing Shakespeare.”
Dalian stepped into the world of theater at the age of 14 when she was selected to attend the Baltimore School for the Arts as an acting major. Some of her classmates include Josh Charles, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tupac Shakur. She studied technique with renowned Scottish vocal coach Kristin Linklater, who is known for her invaluable Shakespeare and stage work.
Four years later she went on to Boston University for her BFA in acting.
After college she spent three years in San Francisco, doing actorly things—getting an agent, getting a coveted SAG card. She did commercials, industrials, voiceovers, acted with Berkeley Rep, California Shakespeare Festival, A.C.T. and Marin Theatre Company.
But then, inevitably, as many actors do, she moved to Los Angeles and became busy acting, writing and directing. Her movie credits include “The Kid” with Bruce Willis, “The Brothers” and “Undisputed” with Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames. Her bio says she is well known as the voice of Haku in the video game series, Naruto.
A (Mammoth) Midsummer Night’s Dream is presented by Sierra Classic Theatre in six performances at Sam’s Woodsite. Performances are Friday, Saturday, Sunday, August 8-10 and 15-17, at 6 p.m. Free, with suggested $10 donation. Bring a picnic, libation and your funny bone.
“You do not need to be resistant to Shakespeare,” Dalian adds. “It’s got magic; it’s got love stories.”