by Lorie Lewis Ham
Recently we discovered a fun little theatre company called Tollberry Theater, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between Prather and Tollhouse, California. This weekend they will be performing Romeo and Juliet so we took a moment to chat with the show’s director Connor Dunkle about the show.
KRL: Why did you choose to do Romeo and Juliet?
Connor: I chose Romeo and Juliet because I feel like it is crucial, especially at a time like this, that the message of this play was felt throughout my mountain community. The toxic hatred that both houses have towards each other mirrors the eerie reality of what has been and is becoming frequently present in American politics. The brutal rivalry which is ultimately just that, a silly rivalry, ends up in the loss of Romeo and Juliet, or the things that both houses held so dear. I feel that consequence approaching everyday now. I also took a class on it, and really learned to appreciate the content, and knew that I had to bring it to stage.
KRL: Are you doing a traditional production or a more modern twist?
Connor: I am doing a more traditional version of the play, this was an easy choice for me because I felt like swordplay and tights are always more entertaining then shootouts and jeans on stage.
KRL: I know you are directing this show, do you have any other titles with Tollberry Theater? And what has been the hardest about directing this show?
Connor: I am 19. I have never directed before, but I have been in plays since I was very little. My father was the president of Tollberry Theater and so I have been in many plays for as long as I can remember. I really wanted this play to become a reality, but admittedly, I wanted it done my way and I wanted to see it come to life as soon as possible. I never could possibly have understood how stressful directing a play can be, but at the end of the day, I feel very proud of what I have been able to do. As director of a small community theater production, you have to figure out by yourself and on a smaller budget how to build the set, how to assemble together costumes for the entire cast, organize stage directions, lights, sounds, advertising, etc. Needless to say, it can be overwhelming. You would be amazed, however, what a small group of people are able to do together.
KRL: What has been the most fun?
Connor: Interacting with the cast has been so rewarding and so entertaining, I love the friendships made and watching people have so much fun coming to play practice.
KRL: How many shows a year does Tollberry produce?
Connor: Tollberry puts on about 2-3 shows a year. We usually do a musical, followed by a play, and then a Christmas play.
KRL: What do you love most about directing a Shakespeare show?
Connor: I love directing Shakespeare because it is such a challenge. You have to make sure that not only your cast, but the audience understands the old English and gets the meaning behind that old English! So, everyone has to exaggerate and emote on a much higher level than before. I love the intensity of the battles and the occasional comic relief.
KRL: When and where will this show be performed, and how much are tickets and where can they be purchased?
Connor: This show will be performed in the mountains at Sierra High School in the LQPC (Linda Qualls Presentation Center) The address is as follows: 33326 Lodge Rd, Tollhouse, CA 93667. The show starts August 30, 31, and September 1, followed by the next weekend, again on Thursday, September 6, 7, and 8. They all start at 7 p.m., with the exception of the 8 which as well as having a 7 p.m. performance, has a matinee performance at 1 p.m. in the afternoon.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Connor: I also would just like to mention that it is a tremendous opportunity to work with these people. Tollberry is a non-profit, and all proceeds go to the next play and Sierra High Students for Scholarships. This theater is where I grew up, and whenever a play comes on, I feel like we blow life into the community and onto our stage. You can purchase tickets either online or in person. Online they are on sale for five dollars! In person they cost $8 for adults $5 for students and seniors.
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 4 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.