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Scott Bellis returns in a reprise of his role as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opening Wednesday June 11. The theatre veteran dishes on Dream’s “weird fantasy glam-rock circus,” on Bard’s early days, and on acting on the edge.
VanMag: How would you describe this adaptation of Dream?
Scott Bellis: It’s a story in which people go into the woods and lose themselves. The mechanicals look like Victorian workmen on acid, and there are umbrellas, balloons, and Puck wearing a tutu. It’s like an explosion of the modern and the 17th century.
VM: What, for you, is the play’s best moment?
SB: There are two. One is when I see Titania for the first time. I have a donkey’s head on and she falls in love with me. The second is the play within the play. We’re having so much fun bringing it back, trying out new ideas. I can’t even get through it without laughing.
VM: Do you still get stage fright?
SB: Fear is about the future. About what might happen when we go out there. But when I figure out I don’t have any control over that, I can came to terms with it. So I just prepare for what I have to do and let the cards fall where they may. And I have perspective. It’s important to make good art. But If the art is bad, no one will die. It’s just an opportunity to learn.
VM: What are some of the “bad” moments you’ve experienced on-stage?
SB: I dropped my sword in Henry V and cut an audience member in the leg. She was fine. We just gave her tickets to another show. Another time, I had a quiet contemplative monologue as king. My soldiers are sitting behind me with a campfire: propane-powered flames underneath fire-retardant logs, so that it looked like they were burning. One night, the logs decided to be not-flame-retardant and caught on fire. As I was sitting there, I could see something stir behind me, then I looked. The guy was picking up his whole campfire, and he nodded at me like “Don’t worry, your majesty. I’ve got this covered” and he just walked off the stage with the whole campfire.
VM: You were a founding member of Bard?
SB: Yes, I was there in Year 1 (but I wasn’t an originator of the idea). It was exciting, because we had to do everything ourselves: set up chairs, pound up rebar to put up the fencing, run out and work the gift shop during intermission. We even had to take turns sleeping there overnight to do security.
VM: How have you seen Bard evolve in 25 years?
SB: It’s been like watching a person grow up. In the first years it was like a toddler-it could barely walk, poked itself in the eye a few times. But there was this strong spirit of adventure and learning. And then it had its awkward early teen years, when it had to find its way. We were still trying to find the skill that only comes with experience as a festival. Now it’s 25 years in and it really feels to me that it’s entering its prime years of real growth.