Rehearsing in different spaces made “Midsummer” a more adaptive play

Cambria Pilger | Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Lauren Sfeir

With the construction of Cowles auditorium under way, Whitworth theater faculty and students have had to use new spaces to rehearse. Leading up to this weekend’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” the cast and crew rehearsed in Tacoma hall, Robinson Teaching Theater, and Pirate’s Cove, senior health science major Journey Donovan said. Donovan was the stage manager for “Midsummer”. By rehearsing in different locations, the show became more adaptive and the actors got used to new spaces, she said.

“I would say we had to work harder at being present,” junior theater major Alina Sunoo said. Moving around meant the rehearsals never felt old or stagnant, she said.

The performance also took place in a new location: the Bing Crosby Theater. Every other year the theatre department performs there to get more exposure in Spokane, Donovan said. It also allows students to engage in professional theater in a different venue, Andy Christensen, director and theater professor, said.

“Students get a taste of the life of working artists (rehearsing off-site, loading in all of the technical elements, using dressing rooms, and meeting their audiences at the stage door while audiences get to view student work in a professional frame,” Christensen said.

Senior speech communication major Leslie Armstrong said, “The show was really able to be mobile.” Armstrong played Snug and was the sound designer for the show.

Since the performers did not settle in one location, they developed characters and relationships more than blocking or staging, Armstrong said. “Midsummer” is a comedy full of love and the lengths people go for it, according to the director’s note. Because of this, developing the relationships between characters was important, Armstrong said.

While the actors moved between spaces, the tech work was completed separately and came together Sunday of tech week, freshman biology major Anna Steere said. Steere was the sound board operator.

“I’ve literally been a part of the show for a week,” Steere said. She had to prepare on her own and did not get to work with the whole cast and crew until the beginning of the performance week.

Set work was also completed independently. Donovan said the set was done a month into the rehearsals so that the crew could focus more on costume design. The set design was inspired by the Bing and was smaller than usual, she said.

Performing Shakespeare at the Bing, “gave it a sense of history,” Armstrong said. Both Shakespeare and the Bing are historical, and the collaboration of the two gave the show a classical and modern blend, she said. Steere said it also “allow(ed) the audience to suspend disbelief more.”

The Bing Crosby Theater, originally called the Clemmer Theatre, was first used in 1915 as a silent film movie house, according to the Bing Theater website. It now hosts a variety of performing arts events.

The Bing is in downtown Spokane, which may have made it harder for students without cars to get there, Sunoo said. She thinks it could have lead to more adults and fewer students attending the show. The cast and crew carpooled downtown for rehearsals.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was Whitworth’s fall 2019 mainstage production. The spring 2020 mainstage production is called “La Algajira” and will be on March 8-10, 13-15.