DALLAS — Would you like to put on a play with just one full rehearsal with all the cast present before the first performance?
That is precisely what theater programs from Dallas, Central high schools and Redmond Proficiency Academy are doing this week with a three-school production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The schools have divided the cast in three, with Dallas portraying the “rustics,” or the bad actors; Central playing the roles of the fairies; and Redmond is casting the court and lovers in the play.
Except for one rehearsal between Dallas and Central actors and tech crew members last week, all preparation has been done separately.
This week’s performances, which open Thursday at Dallas, is the product of a unique collaboration proposed by Blair Cromwell, Dallas’ drama teacher, at last year’s state thespian convention.
“Seriously, the whole project just burst in my brain fully formed. I knew I wanted to do this play and I want to involve these two schools because we get along really well,” Cromwell said.
She was thrilled when Central High’s Jeff Witt and their colleague at Redmond Proficiency Academy, Kate Torcom, agreed to take up the challenge. None of them had heard of high school projects doing such an undertaking.
Torcom said she couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
“I adore Jeff and Blair. They have been in the theater-teacher game longer than I have, and I look up to them,” she said. “They each bring something unique to the table, and so I couldn’t possibly say no at the chance to work with them. My students have been on a mission to make connections with other thespian troupes in Oregon, and this is exactly that.”
Witt said other drama teachers are intrigued by the idea.
“All of our colleagues think we are crazy and are jealous at the same time,” Witt said.
The project has conditions they all agreed to: Outside the time actors spent memorizing lines, rehearsals are limited to 30 hours for each school, and no money could be spent on costumes, sets or props.
Witt said instead of focusing on making it have elaborate sets and brilliant costumes, they wanted it to be about the performances on stage and execution behind the scenes.
“We are not charging for the Central and Dallas performance, so we are not making any money,” Witt said. “But that is not what it’s about. It’s about the experience.”
Participating is risky, Cromwell said. It’s about trust, and possibly last-minute adaptation.
“I love that they have to be ready for the unforeseeable,” Cromwell said. “We can’t rely on just doing what we’ve done before in our own rehearsal hall. We have to match and blend with these other energies that are coming in the room, which I think is really hard to do. We don’t get to practice that very often.”
Cole Richardson, from Dallas, plays Bottom, one of the characters that has scenes with the cast from a different school. At rehearsal on May 6, he just met his romantic counterpart. They were asked to dance — and kiss — during the rehearsal.
Richardson said he loved the concept of the play, but that doesn’t make what they are asking of themselves easier.
“It’s terrifying,” he said. “They are telling us things like, ‘Oh try this, try that.’ I had no expectations about this, so I just came here to play.”
That was in part why Zachary Vineyard, from Central, who plays Oberon the fairy king, wanted to join the production.
“I thought it was going to be a crazy project, but I definitely thought it was going to be fun,” he said. “I’m excited to work with new actors that I haven’t worked with before. Something fresh.”
Tech crews will have a similar experience, trying to blend what they have done separately into a cohesive whole. Stage managers have been working together to make timing, entrances and exits, match for all three productions on three different stages. Mya Robinson, who is working sound on Dallas’ tech crew, said it’s been quite the introduction to sound production.
“I’m putting together the whole soundtrack. They will all use that,” she said. “It’s my first time, so I’m learning with everyone.”
Witt said Midsummer is perfect for this type of partnership because the three different worlds portrayed in the play effect each other, but they don’t interact often.
“I think the challenges we are going to see will come in rehearsal day, when we get together,” Witt said
Wednesday (today) is the first joint rehearsal. The cast and crew have five hours to work out any kinks before putting on the show in Bollman Auditorium the next night. They will repeat the rehearsal and performance on Friday at Central, and then travel to Redmond for a third rehearsal and show on Saturday.
Torcom said she believes that this is when the real work will start, and when theater magic will happen.
“It’s a thing they do when thespians get together with other thespians. They combust with excitement to share stories, joke around, and talk shop. I always love the giddy buzz that comes over students when they gather together,” she said. “This will likely be even more so because now they get to create together. We’ve never done that before.”
Like their teachers, the students involved are looking forward to seeing three separate parts become one show.
“I’m excited to see it all coming together, and to see the whole thing the entire way through for the first time,” said Central stage manager Haylee Gordon.
What: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
When: Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Thursday – Dallas’ Bollman Auditorium, 1250 SE Holman Ave., Dallas.
Friday – Central High School, 1530 Monmouth St., Independence.
Saturday – Redmond Proficiency Academy, 657 SW Glacier Ave., Redmond.
Admission: Dallas and Central shows are free.Remond: $5 for adults and $2 for students; available at: www.rpatheatre.ticketleap.com