A Midsummer Night’s Dream started performances this week, and we’re all very excited—but one cast member in particular is having a fabulous time: he grew up coming to Cal Shakes shows, watching some of his fellow cast members on this very stage, and with this production of Midsummer, joins us for his Bruns debut! We had a moment between rainstorms and tech rehearsals to chat with him about what it means for him to be a part of this show.
Do you remember the first show you saw at Cal Shakes? How old were you?
I don’t remember the first show I saw at Cal Shakes, but I know I’ve been going since I was a little kid. My parents have actually been going since it was Berkeley Shakespeare Festival at Hinkel Park. The earliest Cal Shakes shows I have clear memories of are from around my Bar Mitzvah time, shortly after Jon Moscone took over. Nicholas Nickleby totally blew my young mind; It was so epic and creative and funny. I also have very clear memories of my first exposure to a lot of Shakespeare plays as a youngster at Cal Shakes: My first Othello, first Lear, first Merchant of Venice—all were at Cal Shakes. I remember coyotes going crazy during the finale of Othello. I remember a Merry Wives matinee where it was so hot my program’s ink melted onto my arm. To be acting at the Bruns now many years later feels like coming full circle. I’ve probably seen upwards of 30 shows at Cal Shakes over the decades, and to finally step on that stage as a performer? I got tingles. What a gift.
Have you seen another Midsummer at the Bruns?
It’s crazy but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a production of Midsummer at the Bruns. Though I have acted in Midsummer 5 times, so there has been no lack of Midsummer in my life.
Are you currently in the show with any actors you’ve seen in previous Cal Shakes shows?
I have seen Anthony Fusco in many productions throughout the Bay Area. To be acting with him now is a great honor, as it is to share the stage with all these incredible artists. I’m humbled by the amount of talent buzzing around.
How was your experience of this Atmospheric River craziness during tech?
Tech has been wet and wild! That said, I feel it has really bonded the cast together. We’ve laughed more together in the last few days than the whole rest of the rehearsal process combined. There’s a beautiful sense of camaraderie and positivity. The task at hand feels impossible and inconceivable and that’s sort of fun. It really feels like we’re going into battle, and that’s fostered a very tight feeling of togetherness. The inside of our set sometimes feels like we’re below deck on a ship, and with the crazy storm it really felt like we were out at sea. The Bruns and the whole campus are gorgeous no matter what the weather is doing. The frogs are all so happy with the rain!
Any advice for kids growing up who want to be in theater?
I would tell young kids who want to pursue theater to follow their passions and explore the kind of work that brings them joy. Hold onto that spark that drew you to theater in the first place, whatever that creative impulse might be. Figure out the kind of stories you want to tell, then try to figure out how to tell them with integrity and ingenuity. They say that if you can imagine yourself doing anything other than being an actor, you should do that. I strongly disagree. I can imagine myself doing lots of other things. I think it’s totally fine (preferable even) to be good at different things, to be well rounded, and choose to pursue a career in the performing arts. The best actors are the ones that are also full human beings, so don’t close yourself off from life and the world around you. End of sermon.
Dean Linnard joins Cal Shakes for the first time (onstage, anyway) for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Now playing through June 16—get tickets here!
Photo at top by Jay Yamada: Dean (far right) with cast members Kevin Kemp, Annie Worden, and Jenny Nelson.