A group of Salidans working under the direction of the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival will present the Bard's comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for one performance only Saturday at the Salida Library.
The production launches the festival's "Shakespeare for All" program, funded by the James Irvine Foundation. The goal of the program is to build new audiences for Shakespeare plays and to give more people a chance to participate in the performing arts. "Shakespeare for All" next comes to Modesto in May.
About 25 Salida residents ages 5 to senior citizen are joining two professional San Francisco actors in the production, in which humans and fairies mingle on one magical night. No one had to pay anything or have any theater experience to participate in the production.
Director Steve Muterspaugh said he's pleased with how the production is turning out. "I'm delighted, from the commitment in the community to how people are taking ownership of this production and spearheading the after-party and taking ownership over the set," he said.
The cast began rehearsing Nov. 26 and is using some costumes and backdrops from the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, with the actors providing the rest from their homes.
Geary Oreglia, who owns Salida's Kountry Kitchen restaurant, said he heard about "Shakespeare for All" from a friend at the library. The 64-year-old initially was reluctant to participate because he knew nothing about Shakespeare or the play. But Muterspaugh convinced him he would be perfect to play Nick Bottom, whose head is famously transformed into that of a donkey by the mischievous sprite Puck.
"I'm having a blast," he said, adding that he never has acted before. "I never would have read Shakespeare or thought about it or anything. I think this is great."
He works through his church with youth with mental illnesses and he wishes they could participate in the show, too. "To pretend you're somebody else and to enjoy it it's great," he said.
Tina Barrentine, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother of three, has been enjoying the chance to express her artistic side. She plays Peter Quince, the director of the play within the play. Her kids, who range in age from 11 to 19, also are involved, either in acting or helping with makeup.
Barrentine acted years ago in junior college and was glad for the chance to get on stage again especially in this production.
"This one is my favorite plays of Shakespeare," she said. "I've seen the movie a bunch of times."
She and Oreglia both commented that Muterspaugh is a laid-back director who gives the cast members a lot of room to come up with their own approach to the roles. "He's like, 'What do you think? How do you want to do this?' He's very much wanting us to own this," she said. "He's super-energetic. He's a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. That helps the atmosphere."
The cast members are having so much fun that there's already talk of continuing in some way and possibly staging plays later on their own.
"I think everybody is bitten (with the theater bug) at this point," Barrentine said. "It will be interesting to see what happens."
WHAT: "A Midsummer Night's Dream," produced by the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
WHEN: 3 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Salida Library, 4835 Sisk Road
CALL: (209) 543-7353
San Francisco troupe helps Salidans stage Bard's 'Midsummer Night's Dream'