A Midsummer’s Night on the McIlvaine Plaza: A Talk With Adrianna True

The True Troupe was founded by Adrianna True in 2018. Read our interview with Adrianna right here: Cheyenne’s True Troupe: An Interview with Adrianna True.

Her first production, which she directed as well as produced, was Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It ran for 3 performances, from August 23-25, 2018, at the McIlvaine outdoor plaza on the campus of Laramie County Community College (LCCC).

Here’s a brief bullet point summary of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

  • Theseus, Duke of Athens is about to wed Hippolyta, former queen of the Amazons
  • Lovers Hermia and Lysander flee into the forest so Hermia won’t have to wed Demetrius, as her father demands
  • Demetrius goes into the forest to try to find and plight his troth to Hermia, and is followed by his lovesick swain, Helena.
  • A group of [bad] actors gather in the forest to rehearse a play they are to perform at Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding
  • Oberon, king of the Fairies, and his chief henchman Puck, pursue Titania, his queen with whom he has quarreled, into the forest.
  • Oberon sees Demetrius being cruel to Helena and sends Puck to enchant him. Unfortunately, Puck enchants the wrong man.

Opera-glass-ad

Adrianna True greeting the audience on opening night of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Adrianna True greeting the audience on opening night of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

You cast women in all but three roles in this play.

I have always wanted to see shows with reversal of roles from traditional Shakespearian roles (where the men played all the parts). I chose to do Midsummer as a majority female cast because of that, and also partially because it always seems that when you see audition notices, they are looking for 2-3 times the men’s parts than women’s, but when you go to these auditions, they have 2-3 times the women there than they have men. I have just seen that, logistically, the Cheyenne community needs more parts for women.

You did have three men in the play (Lysander, Demetrius and Cobweb).

These three men came and were particularly talented individuals. Our sound designer (Jacob Marquez) was cast in the role of Cobweb the fairy in order for him to be present on the stage with the sound equipment. It gave him a duality to the role.

The other two men were cast in the roles that I felt would be less important if played by men or women. If I were to go back and change anything, I would flip the gender of the lovers so that those men were playing the women’s parts. They were both great additions to our cast.

Even Shakespeare’s comedies are longer than what today’s audiences typically expect to see, so you cut it down to 90 minutes.

Cutting down the play took quite a bit of effort. I wanted to tell the original story and keep the plotline, while also keeping the rhyming ends of lines. It took me a good solid 4 months of working every day 2-3 hours a day on cutting the script. I would look over each act and section at least 2-3 times before moving on to the next. Trying to keep that 90 minute mark was difficult, but we managed to stick to it.

The fairies attend Bottom (Kiersten Cussins) who has been turned into an ass. Queen Titania (Ancira Ingram), left) is in love.

The fairies attend Bottom (Kiersten Cussins) who has been turned into an ass. Queen Titania (Anchira Ingram), left) is in love.

What were you looking for during casting?

I had some ideas as to what I was looking for but was open to any and all interpretations. One specific thing I wanted was for the actresses playing Bottom and Oberon to be the same body type. Other than that, I knew there were some actresses who needed smaller parts as they were involved in multiple projects already, but knew all of them were capable and talented enough to take on any role presented to them.

Describe the audition process.

Our audition process is more general than specific. Actors can list which role they have more preference to, but it does not guarantee the role to them. Our casting team helped me to decide who would work in the best role. I had a few actresses in mind for the roles they were cast in, but was very surprised by some of the actresses who auditioned.

Describe the rehearsal process.

We had roughly two rehearsals a week since the beginning of June. Depending on the days, we would rehearse all together some days, and then break into small groups to rehearse what was needed.

I also had the cast meet up without me present to run all their lines so that they could be working on being off book as soon as possible. At the end, we would rehearse all together for the last two weeks, and then still run small group rehearsals when needed.

McIlvaine Plaza, on a midsummer's night

McIlvaine Plaza, LCCC campus, on a midsummer’s night

Your performance space was McIlvaine plaza, an outdoor location with no scenery possible. Who designed the set pieces?

Our “set” was actually designed by our props master Jessica Williams. She and I talked extensively about how we wanted to create an environment without suggesting a space or set. I wanted us to have minimal set changes throughout the show, as I was not totally sure what our crew would look like and bringing lots of props or set pieces out would distract from what was going on in the show.

The invisible Puck (the leaf signifies her invisibility) lures Lysander deeper into the forest

The invisible Puck (the leaf signifies her invisibility) lures Lysander deeper into the forest

Props that got quite a few laughs were the light sabres. Was that a happy accident?

The light sabres were actually a logistical thing. I wanted the actors to have swords, and I thought it would be fun to have the swords glow so that #1 it was obvious they were fake and #2 we would have more lighting to help the stage. I had originally wanted glow stick swords, but they were $5 each and we would have needed 3 per night, so cost-wise it was easier to use the light sabers. I loved that it did add that element of pop culture reference, but it was done unintentionally.

Explain your directorial process.

We started concept meetings about a month before the auditions started. In total with the rehearsals, I put a solid 450 hours into the project in total. The entire team made the process incredibly smooth and kept working on everything to make sure the show looked great.

Puck (Madison Webb) cheers on Hermia as she attempts to get to Helena, while being restrained by Demetrius (John Aker) and Lysander

Puck (Madison Webb) cheers on Hermia as she attempts to get to Helena, while being restrained by Demetrius (John Aker) and Lysander. On Puck’s left is Oberon, who is not pleased

What did an actor bring to any particular role that you weren’t expecting?

They all were great and brought so much! I think the best was the Royal couple (Erin Kendall as Theseus and Kelly Gaskins as Hipollyta), they brought so much business to the play within the play that was unexpected and fun.

I think that also Demetrius (John Akers) brought business to that scene that gave it more humor and more interesting bits. One of the funniest bits was the players within the play bringing a bit of business by making Snug the Joiner (Akasha Ingram) get “thrown” back into the play. That was one I wasn’t expecting, but they did it beautifully.

Explain the collaborative process with your crew.

I gave the designers (Katie Delicath Costumes, Kelly Gaskins Makeup, Jacob Marquez Sound Design, and Jessica Williams Props) our concept and vision for the show. We then would all check into what the designers were coming up with, and I would ask them to tweak or adjust the ideas accordingly to help stay with the overall concept. A lot of what they came up with worked amazingly and was easy to keep the concept together.

Your actors warmed up in the space right before the show.

We would do warmups before every show. I like to do them around an hour before the show so that actors are ready to go and have everything ready.

I have worked some shows that have not had warmups, but I always like to do them as a director.

We also like to do a fight call, which is where the actors run their fight choreography before the show to make sure everything looks good.

One fairy looks on as another bestows a flowered garland on Helena

One fairy looks on as another bestows a flowered garland on Helena

The performance was “theatre in the round”

I have directed a lot in a thrust theatre, so figuring out where people could stand and move for theatre in the round [so that they could be seen by audience members all round the stage] wasn’t terribly hard.

I sat in the space for a bit, measured things, and then did a bit of pre-blocking on the show to make sure everyone would fit and could be seen in the show.

I did have to make sure the actors spread out a bit more at points as they all liked to stand very close together, so adjusting that was really the only challenge.

In retrospect, would you have done this production with everyone seated on one side of the space?

I much prefer theatre that is in the round or in a thrust space. To me, proscenium theatre (think of a picture frame) is not my favorite way to block a show, as I tend to like actors to be able to move and turn more than proscenium allows.

Is it more difficult or easier to direct such a large cast? I’m expecting you to say more difficult, but I may be wrong.

I actually enjoy the large casts!

I have worked with small casts (2 people) and all the way up to this cast which was 25. I love working with all the people in a large cast and I love getting so many people involved!

The only challenge is making sure everyone is doing something so they don’t feel like they are wasting their time, which requires a lot of organization.

I think with a smaller cast you actually have to manage them more, as a large cast will find something to do if they aren’t doing something! Sometimes our fairies would go through their dances while I worked fight choreography or the “Goth girls” (players) would help everyone run lines.

Bridget Baugh as Oberon and Anchira Ingram as Titania circle each other as they have a duel with words

Bridget Baugh as Oberon and Anchira Ingram as Titania circle each other as they have a duel with words

  1. Let’s discuss three pieces of staging.
  • Oberton and Titania circling each other as if they were in a duel, during their first scene together in the forest
  • Titania picking up first Bottom (in their scene) and then Oberon (in their final scene) and carrying them off stage.
  • The Wall.

These were all my bits of blocking [as opposed to an idea of the actors involved].

Starting with Oberon and Titania, I wanted the duel to look exactly like that, a duel. I wanted the audience to be clearly aware of the fight, even if they didn’t understand the Old English. I’m glad to hear that read nicely.

With Titania picking the two up, that was another bit of the show I wanted to read without the words. Titania is shown holding Bottom as she is brought in, and it is clear she loves Bottom. I wanted her to pick up Oberon when leaving to show the transition from the fight back to the love and affection.

Bottom (Kiersten Cussins), as Thisbe, prepares to kiss Pyramus (Mikaela Phillips as Francis Flute ), through a chink in the Wall (Tom Snout, played by Akasha Ingram)

Bottom (Kiersten Cussins), as Thisbe, prepares to kiss Pyramus (Mikaela Phillips as Francis Flute), through a chink in the Wall (Tom Snout, played by Akasha Ingram)

As for the Wall, I wanted her to use the “chink” as a bit of humor and business that could start the play within the play. The quick transitional “costume” pieces were a bit of business for the girls to also use as their character or for them to add to the idea of their character.

Playbill-binder

When staging a play that has had movies or filmed productions easily available on YouTube, do you ever look at those to get ideas, or do you deliberately NOT look at those?

I will usually avoid watching other productions, as I don’t like to try intimidating ideas of other artists. I have found that, as a director, I don’t like seeing other productions until after I finish a show. I like keeping ideas fresh and not trying to create someone else’s production.

The happy couples: Demetrius (John Akers), Helena (Elizabeth Harrell), Hippolyta (Kelly Lynn Gaskins), Lysander (Jedediah Huntzinger) and Hermia (Katie Delicath) watch The Actors perform for the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta

The happy couples: Demetrius (John Akers), Helena (Elizabeth Harrell), Hippolyta (Kelly Lynn Gaskins), Lysander (Jedediah Huntzinger) and Hermia (Katie Delicath) watch The Actors perform for the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta

The "Goth Girls" Acting Troupe within the Troupe take their bows before King Theseus and Queen Hippolyta

The “Goth Girls” Acting Troupe within the Troupe take their bows before King Theseus and Queen Hippolyta

The True Troupe Company for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Role Actor
Theseus Erin Kendall
Hippolyta Kelly Lynn Gaskins
Egeus Tracy Michelle Erickson
Lysander Jedediah Huntzinger
Demetrius John Akers
Hermia Katie Delicath
Helena Elizabeth Harrell
Oberon Bridget Baugh
Titania Anchira Ingram
Puck Madison Webb
Peeaseblossom Riona Nelsonl
Mustardseed Caroline Gaskins
Cobweb Jacob Marquez
Moth Sequoia Nelson
Peter Quince Cassidy Gaskins
Nick Bottom Kiersten Cussins
Francis Flue Mikaela Phillips
Tom Snout Akasha Ingram
Robin Starvling Jade Ingram
Snug the Joiner Brigid Nelson

Crew/Designers

Position Designer
Stage Manager Amber True
Props/Assistant Stage Manager Jessica Williams
Makeup Kelly Lynn Gaskins
Costumes Katie Delicath
Sound Jacob Marquez
Creww John Gaskins, Emily Hayward, Alijandro Jimenez, Monical Kluger, Rob Maes, Amber True, Hero Webb, Pam Webb, Jessical Williams
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