Xavier University’s Theatre program is quickly developing a reputation of excellence. Under the leadership of Stephen Skiles, the students in this new program get the experience of working with some of Cincinnati’s finest theatre professionals as they produce their season. Last time it was Regina Pugh (marvelous in Ensemble Theatre’s THE OTHER PLACE) directing BLACK FLY SPRING. This time out, its Cincinnati Shakespeare Company resident artist, Jeremy Dubin, helping bring one of the Bard’s most popular comedies to life. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM opens this Thursday. We talked with a few of the folks involved in this production:
First is Stephen Skilles, Director of Theatre.
You’ve had some great outside collaborators recently from folks like Dee Anne Bryll, Brian Isaac Phillips, and others. How important is it developmentally for your students to work with industry professionals?
Well, we are a student-centered program. What I mean by that is that students drive our program. We listen to their interests, needs and desires and try to respond to them. They want to have professional collaborations, workshops and residencies. And they get excited to go see professional productions in the community. They want that bridge between what they do here in the academic setting and what is going on in the industry overall. So from that perspective alone, I think it is vitally important for our students to be working with professional theatre artists. Our new theatre program was written around the idea of bringing in professionals to work with our students. It not only gives them a diverse set of experiences, introducing them to a wide variety of approaches, but it also enables them to make contacts that can help them in the future as they begin their careers outside of Xavier. For example, we welcomed Craig Wesley Divino last year to direct FROM WHITE PLAINS. It was a terrific show. His stage manager for the production just accepted a professional internship this summer with his company, Fault Line Theatre, in New York City. You can’t put a value on those relationships. And we have been fortunate and thankful to work with such a great group of professionals, from Blake Robison at the Playhouse to Lynn Meyers at ETC to Donna McKechnie, Pamela Myers and Richard Oberacker. It’s been an unbelievable start to the program. And we are looking ahead to another great year with some amazing artists next season!
We also spoke with Ellen C. Godbey, who plays “Hermia.”
What’s it been like to work with Jeremy Dubin? How has his vast experience with Shakespeare impacted your
Working with Jeremy has been an absolute blast! Jeremy is patient and so open to our interpretations, having even incorporated some cast originated ideas into the show. I’m sure I speak for pretty much all of the cast when I say that we feel that we can go to Jeremy with any question about the acting profession, directing, Shakespeare, and so much more. Jeremy is so detailed and diligent in his work and expects nothing less from us. We will redo the same moment or the same line a million times until we get it exactly how it should be. This is my first time working on a Shakespearean play and I can already feel some of the techniques and processes that Jeremy has taught us improving my acting as a whole. Jeremy insists on us putting emphasis on verbs and not dropping ends of sentences so that our scene partner has energy to go off of. Jeremy’s creative ideas are artistically combined with the classic elements of Shakespeare in this show and I can’t wait for an audience to come see it!
Alice Trent is the lighting designer.
How do you approach a show like this from a technical perspective? Is it different doing Shakespeare than something more contemporary?
When approaching my lighting design for a Midsummer Night’s Dream, I focused on creating as much contrast as possible between Athens and the Forest. Our production highlights the presence of magic throughout the show, and I want to emphasize this magic in the lighting design primarily through the presence or absence of saturated color in different locations. More contemporary plays sometimes require strict realism in order to create the world of the play. Creating a design concept for a Shakespeare play set in contemporary time offers a lot of room for individual interpretation. This production of Shakespeare calls for a mixture of realistic and non-realistic lighting that makes it a unique designing experience.
And finally, here’s director Jeremy Dubin.
What has the process been like with college students as opposed to when directing at CSC? Is there a learning curve for them with the language? What should we look forward to with this particular production?