Geva ends season with Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

05:00 AM, May 05, 2013

New York City-based actor and 'Midsummer Night's Dream' star Keith Hamilton Cobb is flanked by local children Lea Mancarella, left, and Taylor Tydings, who play fairies in the Geva production. (Chris Holden)/


Written By Leah Stacy

If you go

What: A Midsummer NightÂ’s Dream.
When: Previews are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday. The show officially opens at 8 p.m. Saturday; it continues through June 2.
Where: Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd.
Cost: Tickets start at $25.
For tickets: (585) 232-4382 or gevatheatre.org.

Be in a Geva play

Geva Theatre Center is an equity shop, meaning most of its actors are professionals who meet the standard for the national actors union. However, in larger productions such as A Christmas Carol and the current A MidsummerÂ’s Night Dream, equity rules allow for a certain number of community actors to join the cast.
Geva is holding auditions for adults, both equity and non-equity, on May 17 for next season. Call (585) 232-1366 for details. Non-equity members should call and sign up for an audition on a first-come, first-served basis. Non-equity actors who have auditioned for Geva within the past 12 months do not need to attend because directors already have their materials. All roles are paid.
Auditions will take place at Geva Theatre Center, 75 Woodbury Blvd., Rochester. All of those auditioning must bring a headshot and resume.

The early design meetings for Geva Theatre Center’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream centered around a simple photo: a glittering young fairy in the midst of lush woods, her face half hidden behind branches and eyes alight with excitement.

Costume designer Pamela Scofield used the image to begin building costumes that would represent the whimsical realm of what has arguably become Shakespeare’s most popularly staged comedy.

Geva opens previews on Wednesday of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which follows the tale of four mismatched lovers and a band of bumbling rustics who cross paths with the feuding fairy king and queen in a magical moonlit forest. Recent adaptations have also placed the story in a circus setting, but Geva’s team wanted to keep things simple.

The process for costuming this show was the same as every other,” Scofield says. “I ask myself, ‘What’s the story?’ and then I try not to get in the way of what the directors want.”

Co-directors Skip Greer and Mark Cuddy gave Scofield three adjectives to guide her: innocence, magic and beauty. Their goal with the production was not to reinvent the classic, but to emphasize an ethereal world.

This time of year gives people an incredible sense of wonder as things blossom, and that’s what we’ve tried to replicate,” said Greer. “We all have this sense of another world we can see out of the corner of our eye, and theater lets you step through the glass.”

To capture the innocence and purity of the fairies, the directors cast local children in the roles, the youngest of whom is 5. Scofield designed their costumes with elements of birds, bugs and other animals in mind.

There’s always this idea with Shakespeare that you have to be edgier. That’s not where we started,” she says. “The fairies are quick, bright things, they shine on their own.”

There are also green wigs — 15 of them in all. And while the children are thrilled by the addition, it’s actor Keith Hamilton Cobb’s first time wearing a wig (much less a neon one).

As a professional from New York City who has appeared in other Shakespearean productions, Cobb arrived in Rochester thinking it’d be a similar experience but was surprised by the dynamics of the cast.

It was such a learning experience to watch the children and this comparison of the corporeal world versus the spiritual world,” he says. “I look at the kids, and I think, ‘They are spirits.’ “

Cobb plays the roles of Theseus and Oberon, a feat he’s never attempted before. (Actress Carly Street plays opposite him as queens Hippolyta and Titania.) It was the most artistic license the directors took with the show, and a challenge for any actor.

What’s new for me in this production is the attention to each character’s story arc,” Cobb says. “The tendency is to tell it gestalt, ‘OK, I know this, let’s do it,’ but the directors are meticulous about story.”

Geva officials hope the response will be as positive as with other productions this season.

The regional theater recently sold its 4 millionth ticket, and more than half of season subscribers renewed for the 2013-14 season before they knew what plays were being produced.

This season has been incredible. I’ve been here 18 years, and I’ve never seen this kind of response,” Greer says. “People are not letting the shows go. The shows stay alive because people want to keep talking about them.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream closes out Geva’s 40th anniversary season, and having the 27 local children and college interns in the cast brings an added sense of community to the production.

I think the local cast members make this feel like more of a family venture. Theater is a community where you have to feel loved, embraced,” Cobb says. “We’re all looking for love, and you can sense that in the community here.”