A Touch Of ‘Winter’ In Vermillion

Queen Hermione (Megan Tejeda) and King Leontes (Morgan Hopper) share a tender moment in a scene from “The Winter’s Tale.” This is the featured play at the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival, which runs June 9-12 in Vermillion’s Prentis Park.

Most people well are aware of the plays William Shakespeare wrote during the prime of his career, but some of his later stories aren’t discussed as much.

One of those later works is the centerpiece show for South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) in Vermillion’s Prentis Park on June 9-12.

This year’s show is one of Shakespeare’s last works, “The Winter’s Tale,” and it will be performed at 7 p.m. from on June 9-11, with a Sunday matinee at 4 p.m. June 12.

There will be a Scholars Roundtable Saturday, June 11, at 3 p.m. that will assemble a panel of experts for an in-depth discussion of the play and the SDSF’s production of the show, she said.

The play takes place in Sicilia, where King Leontes has his wife, Queen Hermione thrown into prison and his daughter, Perdita, is sent far away from the kingdom. The play then moves to years later and follows a much older Perdita in her new home of Bohemia.

“The Winter’s Tale” is an example of a writer late in his career who knows his own style and how to warp that style, said Chaya Gordon-Bland, the artistic director for SDSF.

“Shakespeare’s later plays break away from the traditional trappings of most theatres. A lot of these plays are called problem plays or romances, because they have a tendency to mix genres,” Gordon-Bland said. “‘The Winter’s Tale’ is really unique because the first half of the show is modeled after a Greek tragedy, but the second half is a lot more akin to a romance with comedy elements.”

This production of “The Winter’s Tale” features actors from around the country, all of whom have a deep respect for the show and Shakespeare in general, Gordon-Bland said.

Two such actors, Marisa Tejeda from Minneapolis and Morgan Hooper from the New York City area, say they are proud to be a part of this production.

“It’s now one of my favorite plays. It is a unique play, one of the last in his works, so the writing style is quite unique,” Hooper said. “And you see Shakespeare has found his own voice for this work and it is fun to get to play around with it.”

Hooper has been cast in other Shakespeare productions, including “Hamlet” and “Macbeth.” He has been acting for 10-12 years.

Tejeda has also been acting for several years and was in a previous version of “The Winter’s Tale,” filling the role of the shepherd, she said.

“Now I am playing the regal Queen Hermione,” Tejeda said. “I have always wanted to be Queen Hermione in the show, so it is pretty cool to go from being a comedic shepherd to a queen.”

Tejeda learned about the SDSF production through the Twin City Auditions program which allows regional actors to audition for theatrical productions around the country, she said.

On the other hand, Hooper heard about this opportunity both from a friend who was in “The Taming of the Shrew” in Vermillion a couple of years ago and through job listings in New York.

After going through the auditions, both actors selected the SDSF because they believe in the goals the organization has. The SDSF wants to bring the best of Shakespeare to areas around the state and region to give people a chance to have live theatre in their hometowns, Gordon-Bland said.

“I came out here because I like what (the SDSF) does: bringing quality, professional theatre to a community that deserves and wants it,” Tejeda said.

“It’s been one of my favorite experiences,” Hooper added. “It has been a top notch and professional experience. I have been working in Shakespeare across the country for 10 years. This is a very warm, collaborative environment.”

Besides performing in the play, both actors will also be teaching children’s workshops throughout the weekend. Hooper is leading “Activating Shakespeare,” which helps making this material easier for children to approach these writings, he said. Tejeda is hosting the “The Plays the Thing,” a workshop that gives the kids lessons in improvising and to become more comfortable on the stage, she said.

This is the first year that these two have been a part of SDSF and both said they hope they have a chance to do this again in the future.

“Chaya Gordon-Bland did a great job in casting a diverse range of actors from around the country so it has been great to get to know people and their theatre experience and working with a bunch of different, awesome artists,” Tejeda said.

“I hope everyone who comes has a unique and personal experience with this the show” Hooper added.

The play is free for the public, but free will donations are appreciated.

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