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Black Swan Theatre presents "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with a Tolkien twist

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BLACK SWAN YOUTH THEATRE  - The Black Swan Youth Theatre is producing A Midsummer Nights' Dream with a cast of 23 actors, including five middle schoolers. Three actors are missing in this cast photo.

Erik Scott jokes that getting a perm is the most body alteration he’s done for a play.

“This is the biggest sacrifice I’ve made in the name of Shakespeare,” he said.

Scott, a Barlow High School senior, stars as Bottom in the Middle Earth setting of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening next week.

The Black Swan Youth Theatre is bringing Shakespeare’s work to life Oct. 18-19 and 24-26 at Mt. Hood Community College.

As royals Theseus and Hippolyta prepare to marry, four young lovers from Athens flee to the forest in the wake of parental disapproval.

Upon crossing paths with the feuding elfin royalty, the lovers’ lives are complicated by the mischievous Puck casting herbal spells.

“He has this carefree attitude,” said Kaden Moss, a seventh-grader at Centennial Middle School playing Puck. “He’s always jumping and happy and mischievous.”

A gymnast, Moss said audience members can expect some onstage flips.

The complications ensue as a group of mechanicals, an acting troupe, takes to the same forest to rehearse a play for the wedding. Will the spells and confusion ever sort themselves out? With a little enchantment, time will tell.

“I found the language to be one of my favorites,” said Ellie Leach, a Barlow High junior playing Helena. “It’s so beautiful and poetic, but also a challenge because it’s not how I usually talk.”

Leach’s favorite line is, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”

“I get to step out of my comfort zone and go a little crazy on stage,” Leach said.

The play is believed to have been written by Shakespeare between 1590 and 1596. For Black Swan’s production, director Susan Scott decided to set the play in Middle Earth, a fictional universe setting in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy writing.

She said the setting is subtle, but will come across in the music, costuming and set. Erik’s perm, for example, is intended to make him look like a hobbit.

Black Swan’s cast includes 18 high school students and five middle-schoolers from throughout East Multnomah County and two crew members.

The Oct. 24 performance will be a fundraiser for a July 2014 United Kingdom theater trip. Nine student actors will spend 18 days attending workshops at the Globe and Old Vic theatres, seeing plays in London and visiting Scotland. All proceeds from the Oct. 24 performance will go toward the trip.

Last summer, Scott along with Tabatha Kogle, a Reynolds High senior, attended the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Summer Seminar in Ashland.

“For some, this production (‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’) might be their first experience with Shakespeare,” Kogle said. “I hope we’re able to give them an impression of how wonderful his works are.”

Added Blake Dunbar, a junior at Clackamas High School, “It doesn’t matter how young someone is when they’re doing Shakespeare— it can be amazing when you go into a theater with an open mind.”

This marks Black Swan’s first production at Mt. Hood Community College, and the nomadic theater group looks forward to performing in the new space centrally located to its actors’ homes.

Cast members hope audiences take away a newfound appreciation for a renowned playwright.

“Some American audiences have this idea that Shakespeare is deep and tragic, like with ‘Hamlet,’ but he can be one of the most hilarious writers,” Scott said.

If thou goest

Who: Black Swan Youth Theatre.

What: Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

When: 7 p.m. Oct. 18-19 and 24-26. Oct. 24 is the theater’s fundraiser night for a United Kingdom theater trip in July 2014.

Where: The Studio Theatre of Mt. Hood Community College, 26000, S.E. Stark St., Gresham.

Cost: $7 students, $8 adults; reservations recommended.

Info: 503-501-6079, blackswanyouththeatre.org.

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