Actor Mariel Sierra portrays Hermia in Portland Actors Ensemble’s free 2014 Touring production of
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Welcome! We are so energized and excited to be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Portland Actors Ensemble free 2014 Shakespeare in the Parks touring production. We had a fantastic time at Laurelhurst Park last weekend, and played to large and appreciative audiences! This weekend we’re at Marylhurst University on Saturday, August 2nd at 6 pm, and then on Sunday our show is at Columbia Park in Troutdale, also at 6 pm. Visit our show schedule that gives dates, times, locations and directions for each of our shows, which plays every weekend through Labor Day, and includes an American Sign Language interpreted show on August 24th.
Today I’m delighted to share with you another in our series of Quince’s Queries, interviews with the cast and crew of A Midsummer Night’s Dream! Mariel Sierra brilliantly plays the multi-faceted Hermia in our production, and recently I asked her to tell us about her experiences working on this funny and entertaining show.
(Athena McElrath—AM) Who is your character in the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and tell us a little bit about the character?
(Mariel Sierra—MS) I have the wonderful privilege of playing Hermia this year, and I would say that Hermia and I are a lot alike, but she is also a contradiction of herself in so many ways, as we all are as humans. She’s incredibly brave, loves very deeply, is very passionate, but she is also a total brat! She’s used to getting her way and is incredibly brash about how she manipulates the men around her to get what she wants.
(AM) How did you prepare for your role?
(MS) Over the past few years I’ve had a lot of exposure to Midsummer from seeing the ballet at PNB, Synetic Theatre in DC, and at OSF in 2008, etc, and I have been dying to play Hermia. So I had a very clear idea of who Hermia was in terms of her role within the quartet of Lovers and within the story as a whole,which served me very well when merging my instincts as the character and Doug[las Lay, director]’s vision of Hermia. In my mind, she is a Latina, Elle Woods, so I watched a lot of Legally Blonde. I also go back to a lot of books that I read while at PAC including Year of the King by Antony Sher and Mastering Shakespeare: An Acting Class in Seven Scenes by Scott Kaiser.
(AM) What sorts of changes does your character undergo throughout the course of the play?
(MS) God, I love Hermia’s journey. It’s a timeless tale for all young women, especially nowadays. She’s a feminist. At the beginning of the play she is, quite literally, dragged by her father in front of the Duke and has to stand there while a room of men pontificate and deliberate over whom has more right to her and what is to be her fate. Hermia stands up for herself by aligning herself with Hippolyta, and by rationalizing judgment and compassion, because that’s all she can do at that moment. Even as she is pleading to the Duke, Demetrius, straight up, violently manhandles me in front of the entire room and nothing happens. It’s absolutely shocking. In our society, girls are taught at very young age to be “nice,” and Hermia is caught in the same trap of being nice as opposed to being authentic. She must continue to act accordingly because her life is on the line, and she does until the huge fight between the four Lovers during Act 3, Scene 2. The two boys in the show, Lysander and Demetrius, have royally fouled up, she is utterly betrayed by her best friend, and she goes crazy. Everything that she has been unable to express is unleashed with volcanic fervor. When that Latina temper comes out, it’s incredibly scary, and I think it is the first time in the entire play when the people around her begin to take her seriously, hear her words, and grasp the magnitude of her power. It’s incredibly satisfying. After that scene, she is able to settle into herself, gains a different confidence, and softens a bit. She is so relieved, humbled, and empowered by the time she and Lysander get married that her love for Lysander really matures and falls in such a lovely way.
(AM) What is your favorite moment in the play and why?
(MS) The fight between the four Lovers, hands down! It’s such a blast, but I get so beat up during that scene. I was always taught, “If you aren’t sweating and tired by the end of it, you aren’t working hard enough.” Every time I come off stage from the fight, I collapse in the tent. The audience is going to lose it over this scene, I think. Although, I really do love our final scene at the end when we’re watching the [Pyramus and Thisbe] play right after getting married. Everyone is deliriously happy in love, and it’s quite magical.
The Young Lovers mixing it up in the forest: left to right, Matthew Sunderland, Mariel Sierra and David Bellis-Squires (Photo by Tim Young)
(AM) What was your favorite experience working on this show?
(MS) The people! Everyone is a rock star in his or her own right and it’s been so great to be able to play with everyone.
(AM) What did you learn about midsummer, the night time, or dreaming through working on this show?
(MS) Working on this show has deepened my spiritual understanding in regards to how affected we are by Nature and how some things don’t need explanation, but there’s always a power. It also has made me want to go to a lot of summer outdoorsy things.
The moon is a huge presence in Latino folklore and the power the moon has on us. My father had a one man show, I Am Celso, and there is a line that Celso has when he is talking to the moon, “When the moon gets into your head, it’s madness. When it get into your heart, it’s love.” I think that sums Midsummer up quite nicely.
(AM) What do you hope the audience takes away from this production?
(MS) Since we have a bunch of young girls and boys as our fairies, I’m all about how this play can affect the kids who come out to see Midsummer. If one kid can think “Shakespeare is awesome!” or a girl can feel that “I can be a girl and be funny onstage” and that they can have the confidence to follow whatever impulse they got from seeing Midsummer, than it’s all worth it.
(AM) What and when was your first encounter in your life with Shakespeare?
(MS) When I was either 5 or 6 years old, I checked out from my school library a copy of this big, rose colored, book. The pictures inside were all ink drawings of vines and classic ladies with long flowing hair and men in tights. I loved it so much that I stuck it under my bed, and my dad had to go crawling for it when the school called about book fines. Turns out that book was Romeo & Juliet, which is still my favorite play to this day.
Thank you so much, Mariel, for sharing your thoughts with us!
Don’t you miss out on any of the fun! See the show schedule for Portland Actors Ensemble’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and come check it out for yourself! 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!
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/