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Opera House play set outdoors

ABOVE: Community cast members in the Opera House’s upcoming production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” rehearse at the Sylvania Park Band Shell in Fairmont. The play will show there May 19-22.

FAIRMONT– Shakespeare in the Park is a new concept for the Fairmont Opera House. The first play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” will show at the Sylvania Park Band Shell May 19th to the 22nd.

Not only is this the Opera House’s first time doing Shakespeare, but it’s also the first time it’s held a theater production outside.

Samantha Rosenberg, Fairmont Area Community Theater (FACT) Program Coordinator for the Opera House, said, “We wanted to switch things up to see if it works better to switch the scenery.”

She shared that for Shakespeare and Greek shows, you don’t need to pay for rights, so they thought this would be an option for people to see a FACT show for a cheaper cost.

“We know we want to do this again. We’ll be doing Shakespeare in the Park, or Greek in the park. Some type of classical theater,” Rosenberg said.

In choosing a park, the stage at Sylvania was a bonus, though Rosenberg said the Opera House also has a portable stage so they could have gone elsewhere. What was most enticing was the beauty of Sylvania Park.

“It’s a nice scene to have something on stage, see the glistening water in the back and the light coming through the trees. It’s a really pretty picture,” Rosenberg said.

The play is being directed by Alex Young-Williams. This is Young-Williams’ debut directing experience, though he’s had a backstage role in a number of other Opera House productions.

“I was asked to direct. I’ve stage managed a couple of the recent shows. I was asked to do it and thought I’d give it a go,” Young-Williams said.

Thirteen local community members are cast in the play. Auditions were held in late March and the 13 member cast began practicing in early April. They spent awhile practicing indoors at the Opera House but recently moved to practicing at Sylvania.

“I think there’s a good mix. There’s some folks who are in most productions and we have some younger high schoolers,” Young-Williams said.

He said none are strangers to acting except himself. Along with directing the show, he’s also playing the role of Lysander.

“The acting part of it just kind of happened,” Young-Williams said.

The younger members include some students who were in the Opera House’s production of “Elf Jr.” in January.

“It’s exciting to watch our youth kids start acting with our adult theater. The whole point of youth theater is to get them to be interested and want to do adult theater. Now that they’re showing interest it’s super awesome,” Rosenberg said.

She noted that it’s a short turnaround time considering the youth theater program got started just a few months back.

“It’s cool that they auditioned and are performing with us. They’re some of the most dedicated members,” Rosenberg said.

As for veteran performers, Miles Duffy is playing the role of Bottom. Duffey is no stranger to the Opera House stage as he was in a number of productions throughout his time as a student in Fairmont. He’s also no stranger to Shakespeare.

“I love performing. I love making people laugh. I would do all the school plays and the reactions I would get from the audiences that I would interact with inspired me to keep

going with it and turn it into a viable carer path for myself that I made work for a number of years,” Duffey said.

Duffey attended The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program.

He said he was in a classically based program where he studied acting. One of the main points was that if you can understand Shakespeare, and the complicated ideas behind it, it makes translating into more modern works a little easier.

He went on to work at Montana Shakespeare in the Parks where they did two Shakespeare plays, one comedy and one tragedy, every summer. These were done not just in Montana but throughout the surrounding states as well.

“That’s how I cut my teeth, doing Shakespeare everyday all the time,” Duffey said.

Some of the productions he was in include “Macbeth,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” “Hamlet,” “The Merchant of Venice” and several more.

Duffey left Montana and moved to Texas for family reasons. When Covid hit, it hit the theater world in a big way and he found himself unable to perform in front of an audience.

“I haven’t done a play in two years, since the beginning of the pandemic,” Duffey said.

After moving back to Fairmont several months ago, Duffey said he heard the Opera House was going to do “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“I jumped at the chance. I thought it would be an enormous opportunity to serve my community and have a lot of fun working with the local talent in town,” Duffey said.

Rosenberg said they’ll have ticket booth at Sylvania and that they’ll have city benches available for seating, but that people can bring their own chairs as well.

“They can get as close to the stage as they want. The closer, the better,” she said.

Show times are 7 p.m. May 19- 21 and 2 p.m. on May 22.

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