This is the first interview in a series of interviews with the director and cast members of Annapolis Shakespeare Company‘s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Meet Director Kristin Clippard.
Joel: How did you get hired as the director of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
Kristin: The Artistic Director Sally Boyett and I had met a couple years ago at a conference for Shakespeare producing companies. We hit it off and I told her I wanted to work with her when ASC reached a point that they could bring in outside directors. She is a dynamic producer and creative soul, so I feel very fortunate to be directing for her company.
Tell us a little about your directing career. What personal experiences are you bringing to this production?
Most of my theatrical career has surrounded Shakespeare, whether as a director, actor, or teacher. I have worked with eight Shakespeare-centric theater companies in five states. I made the typical evolution from actor to director while in San Francisco, and that theatrical community influenced my theatre-making style in many ways. I like to work with an ensemble of creative chefs who bring many ingredients to their dishes on the table. My experience in expressive, group movement (I did some training with the SITI company) seems to always find its way into my productions. Now that I have three years of graduate school direction under my belt, I try to define my use of bodies in space and their relationships to each other more critically. I knew I wanted an athletic group of fairies and we have enjoyed figuring out their physical vocabulary.
Have you directed or appeared in another production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
I have directed it about four or five times with youth at the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. And I played Puck AND Titania in a school tour at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre many moons ago. It was a rotating cast of actors – we sang songs on a guitar, danced, and made little kids laugh! We had such a blast.
What is your vision for the play and how have your designers brought this vision to life?
My focus has mostly been on the journey into the woods, and how every human being must go into the woods and face whatever changes that journey may bring. I like the mad dash run through the woods. The confusion. The emotions that come out when things get rough. The lovers ultimately are better for what they went through. They experienced a wide range of emotions and discoveries while there, but they have grown stronger in character and in their love by the end of the play. I am most intrigued by the lover’s story, but the play is what it is because of the magic.
The fairies are like a benign gang, living in the forest and running wild. They help the humans along their journey (although sometimes that “help” ends up backfiring), and fairies are so fascinated by humans that they invade the real world from time to time.
The world of the play is inspired by December – the opposite of summertime. There is a lot of text in the play that touches on how the environment is thrown off balance by the argument between the Fairy Queen and King. A frost has settled on the woods, and summer flowers have been frozen in their bloom. It’s the coldest summer night you could imagine, until the fairies reconcile and love’s warmth melts the snow.The look of the show also revolves around a simple, everyday accessory for all seasons – the umbrella. As the umbrella covers us in all types of weather, love can cover over all our woes.
Who is playing Puck and why did you cast him in the role and what is he bringing to the role that will make audiences fall in love with him? What do you admire most about his performance?
Nick DePinto is a very lively Puck and he has brought so much joy and humor to this role. He is innately playful and has a buoyant energy that is perfect for Puck. His interpretation of Puck is athletic and full of laughter. Nick has a gift for comedy. His expressions of Puck’s mischief, delight, fear, and adoration for Oberon are quite nuanced. I admire his ability to run with the concept and think up wacky ideas while also grounding the character in the truth of the moment. He has kept me laughing throughout the rehearsal process and the audience will too.
Introduce us to the other cast members and tell us what they will bring to their performances, and what you admire most about their performances.
There are two regular actors at ASC, Lauren Turchin Fox and Stephen Horst, who play Titania and Oberon with vibrant flare. They make a lovely stage couple who fully explore the realms of jealousy, passion, anger, sexual tension, and tender love that exist between the two. Bottom is played by Frank Vince, who make the character both tender and hilarious all at once The headstrong young lovers are made up of: Ashlyn Thompson (Helena), Amanda Forstrom (Hermia), Ben Lauer (Demetrius), and Joel Decandio (Lysander). Their physical prowess and comic timing makes there scenes pop. The rude mechanicals double with the fairy ensemble, all of which bring an energetic pulse and a hilarious dash of variety to the play.
You have a 1990’s soundtrack. Why the 1990’s, and what songs will we hear during the production?
I was a teenager in the 90s! My first forays into dating and love were set to these songs. I danced to these songs at my high school dances. The popular music of that time focuses a lot on young love (as it still does) as well as on all the stupid mistakes we make when we are pursuing someone romantically. One song in particular that I remember was “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis. In our show it is played live at the moment when Titania and Oberon reunite; a coming together after a heated fight in which all the fairies dance.
Why do you think A Midsummer Night’s Dream is relevant for audiences in 2013?
It is a story worth telling again because we all make mistakes when we pursue our first loves. It’s about young lovers and how far they will go for love. This translates to any age and any level. Theseus could be a town mayor or a king. This could be any country at any time. There is a need for this kind of joyful storytelling – for younger generations to see the mad choices that couples before them have made. Essentially, this story focuses on love and marriage. Whether or not marriage is the end all be all, I can’t say. But I can say that love covers all things. Amongst friends and family and lovers, all of which we see in this play – love is the thing that brings them back together.
What character is most like you, and why?
Some days I am an amorous, lovesick girl like Helena. When I am directing, I am probably more like a maternal, proud and dominant Titania. On other days I am probably just an ass, like Bottom.
What scene or scenes has/have been the most difficult to direct and what have been some of the challenges you have had staging this production?
None are particularly difficult, but I found we always wanted to talk a lot about the first scene – when Theseus tells Hermia she must die or become a nun if she doesn’t obey her dad. This is a hard punishment for our times, but we stay true to the circumstances nonetheless. We talked about how in some countries – this idea of owning daughters as property still exists.
Another big scene is in the second act when the lovers are running everywhere and fighting because the boys are under spells. It is such an active scene that it took some time to find the right patterns and amounts of physical comedy. I won’t give away the surprise, but ours is a most explosive and colorful scene.
What have been some pleasant surprises during rehearsals?
I think my cast has bonded well and they play off of each other nicely. It shouldn’t be a surprise by now, but I am always delighted by how actors are so generous in spirit. They give and give so much of themselves at every rehearsal. If someone was hurting, another offered a remedy. If someone needed a ride, another accepted the call to carpool.
Their idea sharing has also been generous. I rely a lot on my actors to bring their own sensibilities and humor to the play. This group was excited about the fact we were loosely setting the play in the 90’s and someone came in nearly every day with a new piece of nostalgia to consider. I love that kind of group involvement when creating a play.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing your production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
I’d like the audience to embrace love and the magic it holds. Love in and of itself is a powerful thing. And just as we watch Puck and the Fairies observe the humans, we recognize and understand their journey. It’s a journey we all have to take. We all have to enter the dark forest in order to come out on the other side; warm and safe and back in the arms of the ones we love.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays from December 6-22, 2013 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company performing at the Bowie Playhouse – 16500 White Marsh Park Drive, in Bowie, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 415-3513, or purchase them online.
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 1: Director Kristin Clippard.
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 2: Nick DePinto (Puck).
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 3: Meet Amanda Forstrom (Hermia).
Meet the Director and Cast of Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 4: Joel DeCandio (Lysander).