A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Tour
USA Tour Blog by Puppetry Associate Joseph Wallace
Near-tropical weather, pelicans and pale ale, the A Midsummer Night’s Dream tour has begun! The cast and crew have all safely arrived on US soil and have settled into their apartments on Folly Beach, South Coast. We are here for Spoleto Festival USA, which has been described to me as ‘the Edinburgh of America’, a dynamic line up of international performances taking place across Charleston, South Carolina’s oldest city.
We are in rep with a Japanese Opera called Matsukaze and the Bank of America Chamber Music who will be performing during the day. The whole Dream set has to be installed and uninstalled and all of the puppets, props and costumes packed away and stored in between shows. Luckily we have our crack Bristol stage management team with us and a friendly American crew to make things run smoothly.
Dream is performing at the Dock Street Theatre in the French Quarter of Charleston nestled amongst provincial churches and colourful art galleries. There has been a theatre on Dock Street since about 1736, a whole thirty years before our very own Theatre Royal on King Street. Dock Street Theatre was the very first building in America that was purpose built for theatrical performances and opened with George Farquhar’s The Recruiting Officer. Unfortunately the theatre burnt down a mere four years later in Charleston’s Great Fire of 1740 and the Planters Hotel was built in its place.
During the depression era the hotel went into ruin and before nearly avoiding demolition it was turned into a theatre in 1935 and the auditorium and stage built in the hotel’s old courtyard. The conversion was overseen by Charleston architect Albert Simons who modelled the theatre on eighteenth century London playhouses. Like most good theatres Dock Street is said to be haunted. The backstage area is haunted by an actor called Junius Brutus Booth and the dressing rooms the Dream cast will use are frequented by a prostitute who died in the 1830s of an unsuccessful abortion.
Today the theatre is a hive of activity getting ready for the opening of the 2013 festival. In the auditorium stagehands rush about laying floor, focusing lights and unpacking flight cases. There is a temporary mezzanine being built side of stage to store the puppets and the costumes are railed and ready to go. Director Tom Morris is en route to join us for our first tech session this evening and our first performance is on Thurday 23rd May.
From all of us in Charleston, have a good Mayfest!