Cast member Raymond Wing uses a hubcap for a shield Thursday during a dress rehearsal for the Recycled Shakespeare Company’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The rehearsal was staged at the gazebo at Veterans Memorial Park in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

FAIRFIELD — Emily Fournier loved William Shakespeare and his work for much of her life.

She began reading his sonnets and plays as a young girl, and never stopped, according to her mother, Lyn Rowden.

As a child, Fournier memorized the witches’ lines in “Macbeth.” And as an adult, she developed an interest in environmentally conscious theater, eventually launching a community theater group, the Recycled Shakespeare Company.

When the 33-year-old died unexpectedly in July 2020 in a whitewater rafting accident, it left the company without a key character in its ensemble. But Rowden said she could not let Fournier’s dream end.

“I had to deal with her drowning,” Rowden said, “and I just couldn’t let her company drown, too.”

Emily Fournier of Fairfield was the founder of the Recycled Shakespeare Company. The company is returning this weekend with its first performances since Fournier’s death last year in a whitewater rafting accident. Contributed photo

The company returns this weekend for its first performances since Fournier’s death, her absence as much an influence as a painful memory.

The company is to perform “A Shakespeare Sampler: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” While technically a sampler, all of the scenes performed will be from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and will be done in chronological order, but many will be edited and there will be narrated sections to allow for a full understanding of the story.

The group has several performances planned:

• Saturday, 7 p.m.: Reviving its popular Pizza and a Play at the Fairfield House of Pizza, 207 Main St., Fairfield.

• Sunday, noon: South Parish Church Hall, 9 Church St., Augusta.

• Saturday, Sept. 18, at 3 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 19, at 1 p.m.: Limestone Renaissance Faire in Limestone.

Lyn Rowden is directing the Recycled Shakespeare Company’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Rowden’s daughter, Emily Fournier, founded the company before dying in July 2020 in a whitewater rafting accident. Rowden says the butterfly pin she is wearing is symbolic of Emily’s spirit. A dress rehearsal was staged Thursday at the gazebo at Veterans Memorial Park in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The company’s version of the play will focus on the comedic elements, Rowden said. And while Fournier will not be on stage, she holds a leading role behind the scenes, even with her death.

“We were supposed to perform ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with this whole environmental impact theme, as we were using that play, but we were going to present it in a way that was like a dystopia of the environment where the woods and the fairies live,” Rowden said.

The original idea ultimately was not feasible, so the group pivoted, while still using many of the scenes Fournier edited before her death.

Ryan Toothaker met Fournier when they attended high school at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone. In Fournier, he found a good friend who got him involved in the Recycled Shakespeare Company. Toothaker now serves as president of its board. He is also in the play, serving dual roles as Demetrius and Peter Quince.

“We were very fortunate that Emily left behind all kinds of things — more than we can handle, really,” Toothaker said.

Rowden said the house she shared with Fournier used to have a big piano in one of the front rooms that had been passed down through the generations. Fournier used to play it regularly, Rowden said, and would occasionally sit alongside Toothaker so they could play together.

But without Fournier to create the music, it became a painful reminder of her death. Eventually, Rowden’s sister took the piano to her house.

“After a while, the silence of it was deafening,” Rowden said. “It felt like I was sitting in here like I was sitting in a tomb.”

Fournier was passionate about theater and incorporating ways to present performances in a responsible manner, Rowden said.

“She was a pioneer in green theater, which is like an environmentally sound way of doing theater, where you don’t make this huge footprint of waste,” Rowden said.

That was part of the reason Fournier had been working on an environmentally focused version of the Shakespeare play: She and Toothaker were supposed to go to the Globe Theatre — Shakespeare’s theater — in London to present her work.

Instead, Fournier was honored posthumously with a memorial service at the Globe Theatre.

“I can’t get over that,” Rowden said. “My little girl at the Globe.”

Toothaker credits Rowden with ensuring the Recycled Shakespeare Company returned to perform after Fournier’s death.

“This was 100% Lyn’s doing,” Toothaker said. “We would have stayed quiet if she hadn’t stepped in, which is both exciting and sad, depending on your point of view.”

Sarah Crocker, a lead in the Recycled Shakespeare Company’s presentation of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” applies eye makeup Thursday during a dress rehearsal at the gazebo at Veterans Memorial Park in Fairfield. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Seventeen people make up the cast and crew, with several playing multiple parts in the play. Rowden is the director.

There is a mixture of experience among the cast, for which no experience was required and all who auditioned were given parts.

In traditional Recycled Shakespeare fashion, all costumes and props are developed from unexpected items — think hubcap used as a shield — and reused from past plays. Fournier designed or created many of the items.

“Probably 90% of the costume pieces were sewn or designed by Emily, so that’s also this really kind of cool thing that we get to carry on,” Toothaker said.

Rowden said the group is now missing someone like Fournier, who could see the possibilities in what everyday items could become.

“I always said Emily was a rare person,” Rowden said. “Where we see nothing, she could see worlds. And where she could show us worlds, she could create them in front of us in reality. To be honest with you, I’ve never known another person like that in my life.”

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