Prepare to be amazed by ‘incredible’ The Dream set at Island Lake

August 15, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

There are big preparations going on, in the Island Lake park. As we watched, three people stood on a sloop up from the water, watching the intense activity of building and erecting and painting of strange, unusually large mushrooms on and around the stage.

“What’s going on there?” one of them asked his companions, who knew nothing more about it than he.

However, overhearing them, a person who did have some information was pleased to tell them: “That is the set for the largest production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream ever done, in Canada at least.”

They regarded their informant with surprise.

“It is a Theatre Orangeville production,” she elucidated and gave them the dates: “It’s running from Thursday, August 22 to Sunday August 25. It will be well worth getting tickets and seeing it.”

“Thanks for telling us about it,” they remarked, waving and walking on their way.

We were there to interview the designer, Brian Ball, coming here from Vancouver, and Beckie Morris, Production Manager. and Lisa Lahue, Technical Director (both of TOV).

Collecting ourselves at a picnic bench close enough to the stage to enjoy the busy sound of building, we settled down to understanding the thinking behind the elaborate set and the invitation to Mr. Ball to design it. 

It was Lisa Lahue who had worked with Mr. Ball in Gros Morne in Newfoundland some years ago. He has since worked in Vancouver, had done set painting and designed sets for outdoor shows in Stanley Park on the bandshell; it had been completely refurnished but is still nowhere near the size of the stage on Island Lake.

“The stand is surrounded by trees and nature,” he said of the stage in Stanley Park, “but the back of it is solid – whereas here, the back of the stage is open so you can still see nature through the set. It makes it interesting.”

He said, “I’ve seen Midsummer Night’s Dream many times, so I was familiar with it when Lisa called me to ask if I would be interested in designing this one. Colin [Simmons, Director of the play] and I were talking it through. He wanted to try different things. We started talking about something playful for a play when the faeries are frolicking. Once we looked at that idea, we wanted to tie in with the surroundings [namely, the park]. I thought of geometrical shapes to make that faeries place. This structure is enlarged, slightly fantastical; rope climbing – that was the general challenge. I didn’t know the space. 

“We brought in ideas from a playground – a slide, a climbing arch; there are mushrooms for walking off the stage to the beach and the slide goes down to the beach too. They’re all much bigger than real to make the faeries look tiny.”

The action on the stage distracted us where a worker was unfolding a very large bundle of beautiful blue sequinned fabric. It was the materiel for the moon: large and full, sparkling and blue-hued.

Ms Morris informed us, “This project has been 10 years in the making, starting with the idea of putting an outdoor stage behind the building, but it moved from there to here, where we partnered with CVC (Credit Valley Conservation) for the last six years.”

The last two summers have seen Theatre Orangeville set two productions on the Island Lake theatre. There was plenty to learn from experience.

“We have to have mikes, for a start.”

Ms. Lahue filled in the gap: “We go to Council for permission.” 

“This project specifically,” said Beckie Morris, “was decided three years ago.”

Mr. Ball continued his story with the theatre, “We’ve been talking about this really cool project.”

“It’s important to have the right person; is equally important as the work, seeing the right person – we had to look to Brian for the vision.’

Mr. Ball explained about budgets: “It’s all guess work. I ask for something and these are all the things they can give me. Very often, I had to change something.”

Not this time: as Ms Lahue told the Citizen, “What he threw at us – his ideal – we were able to do that. It’s all on that stage.”

“There were a few compromises,” he commented.

The hardest aspect of the designing: “The scale – it’s huge for our shop. We built a lot and painted a lot outside. But we managed to only increase our crew by one person.”

“The fabric is cut in strips for the moon. On the big picture, each element is amazing. The entire thing as a whole; the colours and finish are spectacular against Brian’s background.”

Ms Morris: “We’ve come so far in three days and we’re on schedule. This team has a lot of pride in what this project is – the largest thing since the founding. Each step of the way. Home Hardware was able to donate labour for a few days. People who see the other projects – this is a fully realized set. There’s so much to look at, it’ll keep you fascinated. There’s things to enjoy. There’s every reason to come. “

Brian Ball contributed, “This is my favourite Shakespearean play but this is it fully realized.”

During the run of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the price of the ticket includes entrance into the park for the day. Anyone not wanting that can buy tickets at the gate for cash only. Otherwise, the beach will be closed to the general public.

Mr. Ball told us something of his own history as an artist. After attending First Memorial University in Newfoundland he went to the University of Victoria to earn his Masters in set and costume design.

The wonder of the backdrops, the play itself and the magic of the faeries; the silly falling in and out of love, the resolutions (come and see it for that). The whole fresh approach to the story and how it is presented will, possibly leave you, as David Nairn put it, “speechless.”

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