A Midsummer Night's Dream: "A Gift of Love"
The Utah Shakespeare Festival announces the cast members for this summer’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including actors Festival audiences will be familiar with, along with those making their first appearance here.
Director Jessica Kubzansky says she hopes this show will be “ultimately a gift of love,” which perfectly ties into the Festival’s new Believe Campaign. It tells a story about [characters] undergoing “fantastical, magical, mischievous, illogical, nightmarish, hilarious adventures…and the power of true, authentic love to make the world a kinder, more generous place.”
The lead cast is as follows:
Cassie Bissell is returning to the Festival, this time in the roles of Hippolyta/Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet. She has appeared with Actors’ Theatre of Louisville in Memory Play, Arizona Theatre Company in Outside Mullingar, Cleveland Play House in Noises Off, and Milwaukee Repertory Theater in My Name is Asher Lev, among many others. She was last seen at the Festival in 2017 as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rosalind in As You Like It, and Rosalind in The Tavern. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Aamar-Malik Culbreth is new to the Festival and will be appearing as Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet. Past roles include Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, Benvolio in Romeo and Juliet, and Ken in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Tiny in the regional premiere of Kill Move Paradise at Dobama Theatre, and others.
Topher Embrey is also new to the Festival, appearing this season as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Bobo/Moving Man in A Raisin in the Sun. Past regional theatre roles include Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Sicinius Veletus in Coriolanus at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Sir Toby in Twelfth Night at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and Dromio of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors at the American Shakespeare Center, among numerous others. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Ty Fanning returns to the Festival, this time as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. He was last seen at the Festival in 2018 as Charles in Henry VI Part One, Fenton in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Solanio in The Merchant of Venice. Among numerous other roles, he has performed as Adam/Drummer in the world premiere of Lindiwe with Steppenwolfe Theatre Company, Guildenstern in Hamlet and The Poet in An Iliad at American Players Theatre, and Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Max Gallagher is new to the Festival and will be appearing as Philostrate/Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Peter in Romeo and Juliet. Other professional roles include Mrs. Bumbrake in Peter and the Starcatcher and Steve in She Kills Monsters at DCTC, 8 in the world premiere of ALiEN8 at Ignition Arts, Mike in Wabi Sabi for Almost Adults. They are also trained as a musician and in circus aeriels.
Corey Jones is returning to the Festival and will perform in the roles of Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Walter Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. He performed at the Festival in 2017 as Tate in How To Fight Loneliness and King John in King John; and Caliban in The Tempest in 2013; and Aaron in Titus Andronicus and Rev. Sykes in To Kill a Mockingbird in 2012. Among his many roles, he has played The General in the first and second national Broadway tours of The Book of Mormon, Bruce Laird in the world premiere of A Distinct Society at Pioneer Theatre Company, Captain Markinson in A Few Good Men at La Mirada Theatre, Dr. Gibbs in Our Town at South Coast Repertory, and Creon in Oedipus at American Players Theater. He has performed on film and television in Trigger, 11/11/11, Franklin and Bash, A Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Checkout. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Kayland Jordan is making her Festival debut as Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. She has been seen as Annabelle “Belle” Pierson in Mirrors at NYTW, Louella in Fancy Maids at Teatro SEA, Lady in Red in For Colored Girls…, and Jo in Thorns for African American Museum. She has also performed in numerous films and television shows, including Betty (HBO), In Ice Cold Blood (OXYGEN), Emergence (ABC), and Keep Me At Bay (MICA). She has also been a member of the Society of American Fight Directors.
Naiya McCalla is also new to the Festival and will be seen as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Juliet in Romeo and Juliet this season. She has performed as Josephine in Pink Morph Suits at The Tank, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar at Actors Company of Natick, Ophelia in Hamlet at the Scranton Shakespeare Festival, and Izzy in Forward Motion at Out Front Theater Company, among many others. She is also a trained ballet dancer and choreographer.
Other members of the cast are:
Ashley Aquino, new to the Festival, will perform as Mustardseed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as a Featured Performer in The Greenshow. She was recently seen as Lucy in You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown at Southern Utah University, Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone and Baker’s Wife in Into the Woods with Broadway Bound, and Glory/Marvalyn/Rhonda in Almost Maine with Simon Fest Theatre Company. She is appearing courtesy of the Southern Utah University Fellowship Program.
Maureen Azzun is also new to the Festival and will appear as Cobweb in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun. She has performed as Louise/Ruby/Etta in More Than a Maid with Black Ensemble Theater, Friend in Queen C at Trap Door Theatre, and Emerson in First Date on the Brain with Drawing Cats Productions. She was also in the films Erick and Alisha, Rosemary, and Five-Finger Discount.
Dylan Fleming is performing the role of Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Joseph Asagai in A Raisin in the Sun, and is new to the Festival. He has performed as Omari in Everyman Theatre’s digital release of Pipeline, as Isa in Kill Move Paradise with Rep Stage, and as T.T. Williams in The Member of the Wedding with 1st Stage.
Taylor Hendricks, who is also new to the Festival, will be seen as Moth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as a Featured Performer in The Greenshow. He recently performed as Michael/Doctor in Matilda! for Syracuse Stage, Barnaby Tucker in Hello, Dolly! by Douglas Morrisson Theater, and Robert Martin in The Drowsy Chaperone for Los Positas Theater.
Nathan Hosner, new to the Festival, will appear as Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet. He has a prolific resume including playing Lord Aster in the first national tour of Peter and the Starcatcher, Polixenes in The Winter’s Tale at Goodman Theatre, Captain Ahab in Lookingglass Theatre’s Moby Dick, Albany in King Lear at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Agamemnon in American Players Theatre’s Troilus and Cressida, and Hamlet in Hamlet for Alabama Shakespeare Festival. He has also performed in film and television on Chicago Med, Girls of Summer, Empire, and Chicago P.D. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Zina Johnstun comes to the Festival for the first time as Musician Fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Ensemble in Romeo and Juliet. They have performed in productions of White Liars & Black Comedy, Henry V, and Mother Courage and Her Children at Southern Utah University, and appear courtesy of the SUU Fellowship Program.
Alex Keiper returns this season as Petra Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. Festival patrons will remember her as Luciana in The Comedy of Errors and The Smiths in The Comedy of Terrors in 2021. She has also performed as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Mrs. Wormwood in Gretna Theatre’s Matilda!, Lizzie in Lizzie Borden at 11th Hour Theatre Company, and Martha in The Secret Garden for the Arden Theatre Co., among many others. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Ryan Ruckman is appearing as Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Mercutio/Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet, performing for his first time at the Festival. He has also been in productions of Ring ‘Round the Moon as Messerschmann, bobrauschenburgamerica as Curator, and The Human Comedy as Henry, all for Nevada Conservatory Theatre; Macbeth as Banquo/Macduff for Indianapolis Shakespeare Company; and 1984 as Winston for NoExit, among others.
Marco Vega returns to the Festival, this time as Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Paris in Romeo and Juliet. Festival audiences may remember him from numerous productions during the 2014-2017 and 2021 seasons, including The Comedy of Errors as Antipholous of Ephesus, Pericles as Leonine, A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Demetrius, and Much Ado About Nothing as Hugh Oatcake. He has also performed at Texas Shakespeare Festival, The Old Globe, and The Reduced Shakespeare Company.
Matthew Wangemann is new to the Festival as Thistleweed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a Featured Performer in The Greenshow. He appears courtesy of the Southern Utah University Fellowship Program, and has performed in such productions at SUU as Falsettos, Into the Woods, Macbeth, and Radium Girls. He has also been in productions at Hale Center Theatre (Orem), Pickleville Playhouse, and Catalyst Theatre.
Deseree Whitt comes to the Festival as a new company member and will play Peaseblossom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has performed in productions such as Dryland, The Beaux Stratagem, Little Shop of Horrors, bobrauschenbergamerica, and The Bluest Eye. She has also done film, television, modeling, voiceover, and stand up comedy work.
Braedon Young is returning to the Festival as Starveling in A Midsummer Night Dream and Abram in Romeo and Juliet. He was seen in last season’s All’s Well That Ends Well and King Lear. At the Manhattan School of Music, he has performed in She Loves Me as Georg Novak, Don’t Stop Me as Roger Dickson, and The Drowsy Chaperone as Gangster 2. He has also performed at Carnegie Hall.
The 2023 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 21 to October 7 and includes Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical, A Raisin in the Sun, The Play That Goes Wrong, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and backstage tours. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting bard.org.