Shakespeare is back in the park this summer.
This year’s performances by the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) will be one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Performances will be in Vermillion’s Prentis Park on June 6-8 at 7 p.m. and June 9 at 4 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public. Attendees are encouraged to bring a picnic, and blankets or chairs to enjoy the outdoor venue, which includes an open, grassy knoll in front of an enclosed stage-amphitheater space. A free-will donation is requested.
The kid-friendly, pet-friendly event will feature pre-show music on site for one hour prior to each performance, as well as food and drink vendors. Alcoholic beverages will be available.
Fans of the SDSF have been requesting and anticipating a performance of this particular play because of its forest setting, said Chaya Gordon-Bland, an associate professor in the University of South Dakota’s (USD) Theatre Department and the founding and artistic director of the SDSF.
The play begins much like “Romeo and Juliet” with two star-crossed lovers whose families want them to marry others, Gordon-Bland noted. But unlike Shakespeare’s well-known tragedy, this is a funny and uplifting play.
Hermia and her lover, Lysander, decide to flee Athens to escape the law, which says the she must marry Demetrius, according to her mother’s will, or be sent to a nunnery for the rest of her life. Hoping Demetrius will forget Hermia and return to her, Helena tells Demetrius of the elopement, and all four characters wind up roaming around the forest.
“They encounter fairies and sprites and hobgoblins, who put spells on them, and everyone winds up in love with the wrong person as we see them chase each other through the woods and have these hilariously funny miscommunications until all is magically set right,” Gordon-Bland said. “Our space in Prentis Park in Vermillion is this beautiful outdoor space with lovely trees and flower gardens, and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ really lends itself to that kind of outdoor magical space.”
The Shakespeare in the Park experience is intended to be more welcoming, inviting and community based that a stuffy theater, she said.
The director, Madeleine Sayet, of the Mohegan tribe, has integrated Native perspectives into the production, and several of the cast members are Native American.
Cast members include Matthew Vidal plays Oberon, king of the fairies, whose conflict with his wife, Titania, played by Charley Flyte, sets the play in motion; Kenny Ramos plays the mischievous fairy Puck; Rachel Smith as Hermia, who is engaged to Demetrius, played by Skyler Ray-Benson Davis, but in love with Lysander, played by Matt C. Cross. Erin Tripp plays Helena, Hermia’s friend who was once engaged to Demetrius and wants him back.
Other cast members include: Siobhan Bremer, Grace Kjelden, Rafael Moraga, Shekendra Morgan, Austin Vetter, Ella Drissell, Natalie Drissell and Elliza Mollman.
“If there’s a little bit of rain, the show will go on,” Gordon-Bland said. “We’ve had that happen before, and we have some really diehard fans who will come in the rain and bring their umbrellas and set them up.”
In that case, the mics will be pulled, the audience will be invited to sit closer, and the show will go on in the rain, she said.
If there are hazardous storm conditions, the show will be cancelled.
“Alongside the production we also do a robust array of outreach and programming with partner organizations,” Gordon-Bland said. “We work with Sesdac, an organization that works with people with disabilities; we work with the Sanford Senior Care Center; we work with the Minnehaha Juvenile Detention Center in Sioux Falls, as well as with a number of schools in the region: Flandreau Indian School, Wagner Community School and USD’s Outward Bound Program.”
The company will also be offering workshops free for children ages 8-12 and 13-18 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Vermillion Public Library on Thursday, June 6. Contact the library or preregister online at http://vermillionpubliclibrary.org/summer-reading. Spaces are limited.
• Creating Theatre Page to Stage
• Raven Creation Story
• Approaching the Shakespearean Soliloquy
Follow @CoraVanOlson on Twitter.