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Shakespeare’s fairy lineup reaches Sechelt: A Midsummer Night's Dream

One of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is coming to Sechelt this July, in the debut of a newly formed community theatre collective dedicated to staging works by the Bard of Avon.
The cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream gathers for rehearsal in Sechelt.

One of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is coming to Sechelt this July, in the debut of a newly formed community theatre collective dedicated to staging works by the Bard of Avon.

Members of the Driftwood Players established the Coast Shakespeare Project early this year. Auditions occurred in April. With Driftwood as its presenting partner, the 30-member volunteer cast (whose ages span seven decades) will mount four performances at Sechelt’s Rockwood Pavilion on July 5, 6, 12 and 13.

“We love the humour, wit and wisdom in it,” said Lise Kreps, who co-directs the production and serves as musical director. “In Shakespeare’s only play with fairies and magic, he fondly makes fun of young love and terrible actors. Four hundred and nineteen years after its first performance, it’s still so easy for both audience and players to enjoy.”

Kreps organized a public reading of the play in 2022, in downtown Gibsons through her work as the outreach coordinator at the Gibsons Public Library. While its single rendition included simple costumes, the upcoming performances will be fully costumed and choreographed, with live music by local musicians who specialize in Renaissance repertoire.

“Just like a TV script, Shakespeare was meant to be seen and heard, not read,” explained Kreps. “As Shakespeare’s Globe had live music and sound effects, ours is also live. All the tunes are from Shakespeare’s day, as well as the instruments including recorders and violas da gamba.”

Admission proceeds will benefit the Bev Shaw Literacy Fund of the Sunshine Coast Foundation. Coast Shakespeare organizers made the decision after enlisting the support of the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts. Talewind Books, founded by the late Bev Shaw, is a fixture of the Rockwood grounds during the August writers festival.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comical fantasy set in ancient Athens. Pompous royals, amateur actors and inhabitants of the spirit world become entangled in a web of misplaced affections. Shakespeare completed the work early in his career as playwright after finishing Romeo and Juliet.

Like its characters, participants embody diverse dramatic experiences. Joyce Parry-Moore—whose résumé includes the creation of an opera company in Alaska—plays Titania, queen of the fairies. Her husband, Patrick Moore, plays her consort. “As a new artist here on the Coast, it’s such a joy to get to know such a broad cross-section of theatre folk and to share our mutual wisdom and passion,” she said. “One of the reasons we moved to the Sunshine Coast was so that we could continue our creative lives. Patrick and I have acted together many times in our past careers, and it’s great fun to bring the royal fairy couple, Titania and Oberon, to life with real passion and thoughtfulness.”

The play’s fantastic elements attracted the attention of actors like Jessica McGuire. McGuire portrays the impish spirit Puck. “As adults, we rarely have the time to enjoy playtime and fantasy, as we did as children, but being able to dedicate this time to organized play is a real restorative treat,” she observed.

For Ean Henniger, who plays the supercilious tradesman Nick Bottom, the production offered an opportunity to return to the stage after a decade-long absence. “I’ve really appreciated the production’s guiding ethos that anyone who wants to be on stage can be,” he said. “For myself, it’s been an interesting exercise to play a character with zero self-awareness — as someone who I’d like to think has at least a little bit of that, and it’s been a great reintroduction to community theatre.”

“I’m pretty new to acting so I love watching everyone get into character and bring humour to their parts,” added Charlotte Gray. “It is a comedy, after all.” Gray plays Moonshine, parent to one of the love-addled lovers, and also serves as stage manager.

Despite its comedic content, Shakespeare’s text addresses the independence of women in matters of love and leadership. Peter Gray, who plays the misogynistic nobleman Demetrius, wrestled with his character’s attitude.

“I’m torn between me wanting to be seen as a decent person,” he said, “wanting to distance myself from this violent and selfish role, and also me the artist, really having to love Demetrius, understand what he needs, what his life has been and where he’s coming from. If I pull off this balancing act, I will be compelling without being ousted by the community!”

Tickets will be available for pre-purchase (by donation) online at effective June 1. Disclosure: The Coast Reporter’s arts and culture correspondent is assisting with the production.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misnamed Charlotte Gray's role, she's in fact playing Moonshine.