In Part 7 of a series of interviews with the cast of Avant Bard’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, meet Toni Rae Salmi.
Joel: Where have local audiences seen you perform recently on stage?
Toni: I can’t believe it’s been a year since I’ve been on stage! This time last year, I was in The Tempest with Taffety Punk Theatre Company. It was their Riot Grrrls production.
Why did you want to be part of the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Avant Bard?
Because I’m one of the later installments to this series, I’m gonna sound like a broken record, so I’ll just say: Randy, Deb, and shadow puppets.
Who do you play in the show? How do you relate to them?
I play three characters in the show: Egeus, Quince, and Moth. I really can’t relate to Egeus, as I’ve never threatened death to any of my loved ones. Egeus is hardhearted and mean, and that’s what makes her challenging. It’s hard, at least for me, to play a character that is in no way likable, but Egeus’ rage is necessary in order for the plot to move forward. During our last performance, after Egeus’ first scene, I ran into the dressing room yelling, “Yay! I get to be Quince now!” It’s nice to get rid of Egeus for a while and play Quince. Because Quince loves people, art, and the fact that her play might be presented before royalty. She’s enthusiastic, a leader, and a lover of words, and I thoroughly enjoy playing her. Also, there’s not a lot of lady Quinces in this play’s history (or Egeuses, for that matter), so that’s pretty cool. And Moth? She’s just a badass fairy. Who doesn’t want to play a nonhuman at least once in her career?
What’s the show about from the point of view of your character(s)?
Egeus: Hermia, obey me or else! Quince: Let’s do a show, y’all! Moth: I just want to dance!
Director Randy Baker has reimagined the show with shadow puppets and a percussion orchestra. For you as a performer, what’s new and different about it, and what are you enjoying about it?
It’s super fun! I get to bang on things and play with toys each night. I think Linda Bard hit the nail on the head when she said that she’s in almost every scene now because of the puppets and the music. I don’t have a lot of down time in the show because of all of the additional elements and I like it that way—it keeps me on my toes and in the present moment, which is where everyone should be living, on the stage or off. :)
What is your favorite line or lines that your character says, and what is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?
There’s really too many lines and moments in the show to pick one solitary line. Just call me Switzerland!
What are you doing next on the stage?
I am in the process of producing with a group of friends (we call ourselves the District Misfits) a solo performance based on the music of Wanda Jackson, so a mix of rockabilly and modern stuff. Dates aren’t set yet, but we are shooting for late March, early April.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
My dear castmates have already expressed so wonderfully in previous interviews about the blend between the Eastern and Western cultures in this production. As someone who is half-Filipino, I was so glad to learn that we would be celebrating that blend in our production concept, design, and casting. So I want the audience to note and appreciate all of that, but mostly, I want them to enjoy themselves so much that they will keep going to the theatre. :)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays from January 14 to February 7, 2016, at Avant Bard performing at Guston Arts Center, Theatre Two – 2700 South Lang Street, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 418-4808, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 1: Annalisa Dias.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 2: Jon Jon Johnson.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 3: Zach Brewster-Geisz.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 4: Linda Bard.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 5: Daven Ralston.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 6: Christian R. Gibbs.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: Part 7: Toni Rae Salmi.
Robert Michael Oliver reviews A Midsummer Night’s Dream on DCMetroTheaterArts.