Music Director K. J. McElrath composed music for and acts in Portland Actors Ensemble’s 2014 summer Shakespeare in the Parks A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Welcome to another installment of Quince’s Queries, intrepid readers!  For those who may not know, Quince’s Queries is a series of interviews with the cast and crew of Portland Actors Ensemble’s fabulous summer 2014 Shakespeare in the Parks touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This weekend we are at Gabriel Park, with Saturday, August 16th and Sunday, August 17th shows beginning at 3 pm each day.  You can see our show schedule, with all the dates, times and locations, as well as enjoy a great study guide by our director, Douglas Lay.  Portland Actors Ensemble’s A Midsummer Nights Dream runs through Labor Day.  Our show on August 24th will be American Sign Language interpreted as well.

Today I feature an interview with someone near and dear to me, my very own spouse, K. J. McElrath!  He is the fine music director for our show, and in addition plays the roles of Egeus, Flute and Thisbe.  You can hear some of his music at our cabaret website, McElrath Cabaret, or by visiting Sound Cloud for some of his concert pieces, and his works for orchestra and winds can be heard at    He’s written the original music that you will hear in our new Educational Outreach shows, which will be available to schools starting in September 2014.  He’s also recently written and had published 3 new e-book novels in the last 2 years–you can find them on or Club Lighthouse Publishing.


Today he’s going to share with us his thoughts about putting the music together for our moonlight revels!

(Athena McElrath—AM) Tell us about the music for this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—what makes it unique?


(K. J. McElrath—KJM) It’s primarily based on rap and hip-hop, while the use of tools, paint cans, etc. was inspired by a show entitled STOMP – a percussion-themed dance show that makes use of industrial objects and tools.


Other influences one might hear is hard rock – the background to Spotted Snakes for example recalls the early ’70s groups such as “The Doors.” There is also the “electric” tango (Oberon-Titania dance toward the end – Argentines, please forgive me!). For the intermission music, I drew on African, Caribbean, Balinese, Arabian and even Japanese traditions, throwing them altogether and putting an exotic melody with whole-tone and parallel harmonies. The idea was to create something ethereal, such as latter-day fairies might listen to and perform.



Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries Interview with Portland Actors Ensemble Music Director KJ McElrath

The Mechanical perform the opening number:  left to right:  Toby Gollihar (Tom Snout the Tinker), K. J. McElrath (Flute the Bellows Mender).  Photo by Tim Young.


(AM) Who were your musical influences for this show?


(KJM) I suppose, at least when it came to the “fairy dance” played during the intermission, that it was 20th Century composers such as Debussy, Prokofiev and Bartok. As far as the lyrics to the opening rap song, I tried to think like great 20th Century lyricists such as Cole Porter and Lorenz Hart, who (inspired by W.S. Gilbert), broke out of rhyming couplets, exploring interior rhymes and other unusual forms of verse.



(AM) What was the greatest challenge you faced in working on the music for this play?


(KJM) The fact that rap, hip hop and other contemporary forms of pop music were terra incognita for me! (Normally, my tastes run more toward Big Band and Broadway as well as modern symphonic pieces.)



Portland Actors Ensemble:  Quince's Queries Interview with Portland Actors Ensemble Music Director KJ McElrath

The Mechanicals during Pyramus and Thisbe:  from left to right, Michael Godsey (Pyramus), K. J. McElrath (Thisbe), and Toby Gollihar (Wall).  Photo by Tim Young.



Thanks, K. J.!


Join us this weekend for all the fun!  See the show schedule for Portland Actors Ensemble’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and come check it out.   Playing now through Labor Day at various parks throughout Portland, Oregon, and free to the public, with donations gratefully and graciously accepted.  We also have a brilliant study guide prepared for this show by our wonderful director, Douglas Lay.


More Quince’s Queries for A Midsummer Night’s Dream coming up soon!



Have any questions about A Midsummer Night’s Dream?  We’d love to hear about it down in the comments, so feel free to stop by and say hi!


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Till next time,

Take pains; be perfect; adieu!

DCFC0486.JPGAthena McElrath is an actor and singer who is also an Administrative Board member with Portland Actor’s Ensemble.  She helps PAE with social media and educational outreach.  She often works onstage with her husband, K.J. McElrath, in their cabaret act, called McElrath Cabaret, which features songs from classic Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley.  For more: