Actor Matthew Sunderland portrays Demetrius in Portland Actors Ensemble’s free 2014 Touring production of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Greetings one and all! I am so pleased to begin a new interview series for you, entitled Quince’s Queries–(makes sense since I’m playing Petra Quince in this production:) Throughout the coming weeks you’ll see our interviews with cast and crew of Portland Actors Ensemble’s free Summer 2014 Shakespeare in the Parks touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens this Saturday, July 12th, at Concordia University, the lawn area outside the Library, beginning at 7pm. We’d love to have you come out and join us for our free production! Our show on the 12th is also an audio-described production, and throughout the run of the show we have select performances that are ASL interpreted or audio-described. Please see our show schedule for more details.
Let me introduce you today to our charming actor who brings the character of Demetrius to life on our stage, the fabulous Matthew Sunderland! Matthew shares with us some of his thoughts concerning his preparation for the role as well as his experiences of working on this amazing play.
(Athena McElrath–AM) Who is your character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and tell us a little bit about the character?
(Matthew Sunderland–MS) I am playing the character of Demetrius, who is another one of the Lovers Quartet. I’m known well throughout Athens and come from a powerful family; and one of the nobleman of the city, Egeus, wants me to marry his daughter Hermia. And though I was in love with Helena originally I’m casting that aside in favor of the arranged marriage to Hermia. Demetrius is a very proud man, committed to arranging for himself the best possible marriage, regardless of the “love” involved. At least at first. In terms of the structure of the play, I would say I represent the person who is blinded by ambition and duty and am not listening to what my heart is really saying and yearning for. I might need a bit of magic to straighten me out.
(AM) How did you prepare for your role?
(MS) Mostly, with all Shakespeare, I focus my time on script work and text analysis. You have the greatest writer in the English language’s history writing the script, so I really feel like all the clues and instructions on how to play the character truthfully can be found in the text. Past that, I did historical research on the time period in order to better immerse myself in this Athenian culture.
(AM) How did you explore your character in rehearsals?
(MS) I tried to really connect to my fellow actors in what they were doing, since, especially for the Lovers, so much of our stuff is reacting off of others. Also, with this show being so physical, I really tried to explore what it would mean to express the character and my intentions through such physicality.
(AM) What sorts of changes does your character undergo throughout the course of the play?
(MS) A lot! Before the show begins it is talked about that I was in love with Helena, but then in the first scene myself and Egeus are trying to petition the Duke of Athens, Theseus, to force Hermia to marry me. A little while later, though, Oberon puts a spell on me with a magically enchanted flower, and I instantly begin to love Helena again. For the rest of the show I’m chasing after her in the way I was Hermia in the beginning.
(AM) What is your favorite moment in the play and why?
(MS) Probably the ending, Pyramus & Thisbe. It’s both just a really funny point in the show, and it’s the first point in the show the lovers really get to relax. Before this the whole play is a desperate effort by the four of us to get what we need and want out of our love life and finally at the end the whole thing has been resolved and we get to relax and just be entertained for a while!
(AM) What was your favorite experience working on this show?
(MS) Honestly, this cast and crew are so amazingly talented that it’s just great to go work with them everyday. There is a permission from everyone to really play and try new things each rehearsal, and it’s great to have that freedom from your fellow actors.
(AM) What was the most surprising or unusual concept you learned about MND while working on this production?
(MS) I was pretty familiar with the script already, but it was interesting to go back and do more historical data on the time surrounding the play, as well as the historical influences for the characters.
(AM) What did you learn about midsummer, the night time, or dreaming through working on this show?
(MS) Midsummer is such an interesting time of year, because everyone wants to be outside around nature, and there’s something really powerful about that sensation. It builds up a wildness in a person that doesn’t exist the rest of the year. And though I’ve always been a Night Owl, I’ve never performed a play before that takes place almost entirely at night in the woods, so it’s interesting to play with what that would be like.
(AM) What do you hope the audience takes away from this production?
(MS) I hope the audience takes away an appreciation for this script, really. In my opinion it’s Shakespeare’s master comedy; there’s so many elements that weave together so beautifully by the end that it truly sets the show apart from most others.
(AM) What and when was your first encounter in your life with Shakespeare?
(MS) Well, my first encounter with Shakespeare was reading Romeo and Juliet in High School, but that didn’t make much of an impression on me. In college, though, I was at this week-long theatre festival in Humboldt, California and a workshop on the First Folio was being presented by the Houston Shakespeare Festival. That ended up being a truly life-changing hour and half for me. For whatever reason, they presented the Folio in such a brilliant way that it was really a Coming To Jesus moment for me.
(AM) Is there anything else you’d like to add that I’ve not asked? Please do so!
(MS) Athena’s cool.
Thank you so much, Matthew, for your thoughtful answers! (And no, I didn’t pay him for that last response:)
More A Midsummer Night’s Dream Quince’s Queries coming up soon!
The fresh faces of Portland Actors Ensemble’s Young Lovers from A Midsummer Night’s Dream: left to right, Mariel Sierra, David Bellis-Squires, Matthew Sunderland, and Tara Hershberger (Photo by Rio)
You can find our show schedule for Portland Actors Ensemble’s free 2014 touring show A Midsummer Night’s Dream here–please join us and see this free production that runs July 12th through September 1st. We also have a brilliant study guide prepared for this show by our wonderful director, Douglas Lay, so check it out!
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!
Till next time,
Take pains; be perfect; adieu!Athena 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: http://mcelrathcabaret.com/