Jac Royce has made it her life’s work to make Shakespeare more accessible.
During her time as a professor of theater arts at the University of Puget Sound and at Stanford before that, Royce said her focus was on teaching people how to act and, in particular, that Shakespeare isn’t scary.
With the opening of her debut Nevada County directorial effort this weekend, Royce aims to accomplish just that for Sierra Stages — a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that draws the audience in and has them following the language and the plot.
“It really is a dream, so it’s not all coherent,” Royce said of the popular Shakespeare comedy.
The play, estimated by scholars to have been written by Shakespeare between 1590 and 1596, features a night when anything can happen. Young lovers rouse the mischievous curiosity of fairies, which use their charm to lead the couple into a playful midnight frolic through the forest. In the midst of it all, an acting troupe gets caught up in the chaos when a magic spell turns their leading man into a donkey, according to Sierra Stages.
Royce has done a great job incorporating her extensive experience and expertise into the production, said Peter Mason of Sierra Stages.
“She is incredibly knowledgeable about Shakespeare,” he said.
Mason said that Royce’s understanding of Shakespeare and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” comes through in the actors, whom she has worked with individually to make sure they know the language and understand what they are saying. That translates to the audience as well.
“For this particular production, the actors are getting a lot of Shakespeare instruction,” he said.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” features familiar Sierra Stages actors and welcomes cast members new to community theater. Sam Haley-Hill stars as Puck with Robert Rossman and Marion Jeffery double-cast in the roles of Thesus and Oberon, and Hippolyta and Titania, respectively. The cast also includes Paul Hauck, Lyra Dominguez, Casey Burke, Conor Nolan, Tinley Ireland, Isaias Acosta, Brandon Johnson, Marcus Arellanes, Cathy Johnston, Chandler Leonard, Clara Knappen, Jackson Knappen, Tadja Enos, Jozi Gullickson and Pamela M. Hodges on mandolin.
This will be the nonprofit theater company’s first foray into Shakespeare. After meeting Royce and her husband, Mike Edwards, about a year ago when he built the set for Sierra Stage’s spring 2012 production of “Death of a Salesman,” the idea to work with her on Shakespeare was planted, Mason said.
Royce and Edwards moved to Nevada County about two years ago from Washington.
“We started living here in our minds right after our first Constitution Day parade,” Royce said.
Edwards, who also has a background in theater, is the set designer and technical director for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The production staff also features Erin Beatie on lighting design and Sharon Olson on costume design.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens Thursday (Feb. 28) and continues for four weekends through March 23. Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. The first two performances have a special general admission price of $15. For all other performances, general admission tickets are available at the reduced price of $20 if purchased before Saturday. After that, general admission tickets will be $25 for all performances. In addition, Sierra Stages offers reserved seating for $35. Tickets are available online at http://SierraStages.org, by calling Sierra Stages at 530-346-3210 and in person at the Nevada City Box Office (at the Miners Foundry) and BriarPatch Co-op. Group rates and special low priced high school and collect student group rates are available. Student rush tickets (under age 18 with presentation of full-time student ID) will be available for $15 on a first-come, unreserved basis 30 minutes prior to curtain if the performance is not sold out.
Features Editor Brett Bentley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.