School of the Arts

Midsummer's Director

Cynthia Lammel Returns to Direct Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Titania and her fairies surrounding Bottom with a donkey's head

When CSU, Chico presents William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in early March, it will mark the return of former Department of Music and Theatre faculty member Cynthia Lammel, who retired in May 2017.

On short notice, the Department of Music and Theatre asked Lammel to direct because there was a need for a director who was not just qualified, but also had enough experience with the department to know how it operates best during productions. And Lammel jumped at the chance to come back.

“No one had to twist my arm to do this show,” she said.

Lammel took on the task not only because “Midsummer” needed a director, but also because the Shakespearean masterpiece is one of her favorites and because she would get to work with some familiar faces—Brian Redfern (set), Mallory Prucha (costumes and makeup), and Jeremy Votava (lights), all of whom she described as “fantastic artists and collaborators.”

She said working with them to create a “visually stunning” production of “Midsummer” has been a “creative and satisfying experience.”

While the experience was satisfying, it also involved a lot of hard work for everyone by having to construct 70 percent of the show from scratch. Seven full columns and four broken columns were designed to create a visual of being present in Athens during Ancient Greece. With Prucha’s costuming, each character will have elaborate garb reflecting their roles and the time period. For example, Titania, the fairy queen, is clothed in an intricately layered, almost floating, dress with a shimmery bodice and high-collared, shimmering, transparent cloak, and her regal look is completed with a beautiful crown.

Lammel, who retired in May 2017, has been enjoying her free time, she said.

“I have taken up the guitar of all things! This past fall I took an extended trip back east and got to enjoy the brilliant fall colors and share leisurely visits with my wonderful family and dear friends.”

She says the best thing about her retirement is being able to spend time with her daughters.

“I’m no longer saying, ‘Hi sweetie, I have 80 papers to grade and a rehearsal to get to, but what can I do for you?’ Now it’s, ‘Let’s have lunch.’”

During her time at Chico State, Lammel taught acting, voice and movement classes ranging from beginner to advanced level. She also taught “Introduction to Theatre,” “Children’s Literature in Performance,” “Literature in Performance,” and many other classes. Lammel even taught in London as part of the now-defunct Chico State London Semester program.

Some of her notable directing credits include the plays “As It Is in Heaven,” “Rashoman,” “Stop Kiss,” “Proof,” “Birds,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Natural Selection,” “The Learned Ladies,” “Spinning into Butter,” and “Round and Round the Garden.”

Her directing work at Chico State has been award-worthy. She earned the Meritorious Directing Award from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival on two separate occasions and she received two local Annie awards for direction.

Lammel said she is looking forward to the audiences seeing all the hard work that went into the vibrant spring theatre production.

“Even if you have seen ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ before you won’t have seen it like this,” Lammel said. “I think it is rare that we get to see a production of Shakespeare fully designed in an intimate venue. The set and costumes are a visual banquet.”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be staged in Wismer Theatre—CSU, Chico’s small “black box” theatre - March 8-10 and 13-15 at 7:30 p.m. and March 10 and 11 at 2 p.m.

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Story by Shelby Casey, School of the Arts Publicity Assistant