Michael Fell, a recent University of Minnesota grad, returns to the Guthrie stage as Francis Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, artistic director Joe Dowling’s third and final production of Shakespeare’s magical comedy.
You were in Born Yesterday at the Guthrie while studying in the University of Minnesota’s Guthrie Theater Actor Training Program. What’s it like to return to the Guthrie stage now that you’ve graduated?
I couldn’t be more thrilled to be back at the Guthrie. Doing Born Yesterday while I was in school was a great chance to dip my toe in the waters of the professional regional theatre mode of working, as opposed to the scrap-it-together-and-hope-the-set-stays-up methods I was familiar with, and it helped me come into a bigger role as Francis Flute in this production.
What is your favorite thing about playing Francis Flute?
I worked with Joe to create a Flute that has a really well rounded and exciting character arc. I wanted to tell the story of a young kid who is made to play a girl in a play he doesn’t even want to be in to begin with, who then comes into his own, both as an actor and as a young man through the experience of playing that very girl. The sensation of being on stage and having this realization that “I’m actually kinda good at this! I really love acting!” is something that is very personal to me, and I enjoy sharing that surprising “ah-ha!” moment with audiences every night.
Your character is part of a band of craftsmen rehearsing a play in honor of Thesus and Hippolyta’s wedding. What is that “play-within-a-play” dynamic like?
The “play-within-a-play” creates a really unique dynamic in the theatre. The actual Guthrie audience gets to join the lovers and the royals and watch these “rude mechanicals” absolutely butcher a play that isn’t much good to begin with. I start the play-within-a-play really nervous, so the first time I did it in front of an audience, taking in 1,200 people on all sides of me did the trick of making me nervous — no acting required there.
You played Macbeth at the Globe in London. What was that like?
Performing the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” speech on the Globe stage was absolutely a dream come true. Any actor that loves doing Shakespeare would have something like that on their bucket list. It’s incredible to perform Shakespeare’s words in the exact space he was writing them to be spoken in. It sounds kind of mystical, but there is an energy there that just makes those words resonate all the more strongly.
Outside of the Guthrie, what are some of your favorite Twin Cities theater venues?
I really love some of the smaller companies in town, Dark and Stormy, Gremlin, The Public Theatre of Minnesota, Walking Shadow. I also love The Jungle, and doing long-form improv and seeing it at Huge.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through March 29 at the Guthrie’s Wurtele Thrust Stage. For tickets and more information, visit the Guthrie’s website.