Cameron Anderson designs ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ for SCR


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Romeo and Juliet lacked imagination. No play of Shakespeare’s captures the disorienting rush of desire like “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with its young lovers lost in the woods and gleeful fairies unleashing sexual mayhem with a few potent botanicals. South Coast Repertory’s new production of the Bard’s chemical romance features striking scenic design by Cameron Anderson that uses light in unexpected ways.

The play begins in Athens, where King Theseus is about to marry the Amazon queen Hippolyta. Naturally, they’re giving the press a photo op. Anderson and director Mark Rucker took their inspiration from the real royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton. “The long couch is a nod to the extravagant props that often turn up in posed photos of modern royalty,” explains Anderson. “The exaggerated mid-century arc lamp hanging over them that could be from 1958 or 2011,’ adds Rucker. “We didn’t want to tie the show down to a specific time.”


The designer says the key to capturing the play’s hallucinatory feel “is to contrast the palace and forest, the mortal world and fairy world, a place where the lovers experience a dream-like feeling.” Rucker and Anderson both wanted to avoid a static stage picture of the woods. “Usually you get to the forest and that’s it, visually, for a couple of acts,” Rucker says. “But Cameron found a way for the forest to continually transform.” Renaissance folk believed that when clothing or a slice of bread went missing, fairies were the culprits. “The fairies are constantly stealing things in the play and repurposing them, like umbrellas,” says Anderson. “Our trees are Plexiglas covered with thousands of love notes and book pages that the fairies have stolen. When the trees are backlit, they glow. They can also fly in and out depending on where we are in the forest. There’s also a ramp made of drawers, out of which fairies pull their loot.’

The Mechanicals, workmen who put on a play for the wedding, travel in a Rube Goldberg-style truck assembled from old couches, a cello, and illuminated bottles. “The Mechanicals repurpose, too,” says Rucker, “but less skillfully than the fairies.”

For Rucker, “the whole play is a prelude to a honeymoon. Theseus is distracted with excitement. He can’t wait for his wedding night. But Hippolyta uses the intervening time to teach him about true love--she saves Hermia, one of the lovers, from an unhappy arranged marriage. It’s a comedy, but the stakes are very high.”

--Charlotte Stoudt

At South Coast Repertory from Jan. 21 through Feb. 20.

Top to bottom: A photo op at the Athenian court; Plexiglas trees and stolen drawers create a magical forest; umbrellas repurposed by fairies; the makeshift traveling theater of the Mechanicals. All design images created by Cameron Anderson.