Mistaken identities, a randy romp in the forest, donkey devotion and a whole lot of fairy dust: It must be A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fourth production to brighten the amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival this season. Midsummer is perhaps the Bard's most popular comedy, but what sets this ISF production apart is the decision by director Joseph Hanreddy to cast some of the company's veteran dramatic performers alongside others who Boise audiences are more accustomed to seeing in ISF musicals.
A Midsummer Night's Dream runs Friday, Aug. 4 through Sunday, Sept. 3. Prior to opening night, Boise Weekly caught up with Jillian Kates (who portrays Fairy Queen Titania) and 17-year ISF veteran David Anthony Smith (who plays Nick Bottom, a lowly weaver who is turned into a donkey but nonetheless captures Titania's heart).
Love may be blind, but that has never been truer than with Nick Bottom, who becomes, pardon my English, an ass.
Smith: An ass's head and an ass's tail and he even takes a peek, let's say below his belt, to see if the transformation has occurred there, too.
Despite Bottom becoming an ass, a little bit of fairy dust goes a long way for Titania.
Kates: Be careful with your dosage. In my case, it goes too far. But what can I say? We're having a blast.
Talk to me a bit about how you conjure up on-stage chemistry.
Kates: We were just working on a scene, a post-coital scene between Bottom and Titania. To help create those sexy moments, we actually need help from an intimacy choreographer.
Excuse me? Is 'intimacy choreographer' an actual line item on a resume?
Kates: It is.
Smith: It's a position, so to speak.
Kates: We have to go through the movements. It's like a dance you need to work on with some outside help.
It must also help that you've worked together before.
Smith: I love Jillian's work. It helps to have mutual respect and admiration.
Kates: Oh, stop.
A Midsummer Night's Dream ranks high in audience familiarity with the script. What distinguishes your production?
Kates: For one, you're going to see some musical theater actors taking on Shakespeare.
Audiences may remember you as Eliza in My Fair Lady last summer, and you performed in the 2015 musical, The Secret Garden.
Kates: It's something fun and magical for we singers to bring a musical approach to Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night's Dream already lends itself to an obvious rhythm, but we'll also be bringing you a melody that is something new and fresh and pretty wonderful.
Speaking of keeping things fresh, how are you holding up in the heat?
Smith: Hydration is key. As soon as we're offstage, we're heading to the water and cold towels.
Kates: We're like zebras to the pond, soaking it up.
I've heard nothing but raves from audiences about this season's productions.
Kates: Boise audiences are the best you could ask for. So generous.
Smith: When we compare audiences to our same productions at the Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland, we always say, "In Boise, you're innocent until you're proven guilty. In Cleveland, you're guilty until proven innocent." The thing for me in Boise is that audiences here are so astute. When they see a classical production, they know their Latin references, their legal references, their biblical references.
Speaking of references, I'm impressed that you have a script of A Midsummer Night's Dream is sitting here next to you.
Smith: For instance, right here, they're talking about Bottom's relationship with Titania. "Their kinds of understanding are totally different and each one comically dislocates the other. She offers him fairy food, but with the tastes of the ass, he would much rather have hay."
Kate: Hilarious. I love that. The species are trying to connect and intertwine, but...
Smith: The audience wants them to stay together, but they're not really on the same page. She tries her fairy stuff on him and says, "Well, I'll get you these beautiful nuts."
Kates: But he says, "No, I'd rather have hay."