Montana Shakespeare in the Parks will tour performances of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part I” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” this summer to parks and public spaces across Montana and adjacent states.
The company will travel over 7,000 miles during the season, which runs June 12 through Sept. 3, performing in 61 communities in five states including Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. All performances are offered free and accessible to all.
Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director, will direct “Henry IV, Part I” while Chicago-based Marti Lyons will direct “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” The 11 professional actors that will tour with the company were chosen out of a highly competitive pool at auditions in Bozeman, Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston.
Lyons returns as guest director after having worked at such notable institutions as the Goodman Theatre (Chicago), The Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
The recent centennial of WWI inspired Asselin to set “Henry IV, Part I” in that era. “The play has such a deep relationship with the true meaning of honor. Shakespeare gives us multiple viewpoints on what honor means to us as individuals,” he says.
“And it has a great relationship to Montana,” adds Asselin. “If you look at the veteran population through the past 125 years, Montana leads the nation in terms of veterans per capita. I felt the connection would be exciting for us to explore.”
It’s a “Summer of Falstaff” with one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters featured prominently in both plays. The drunken knight is a foil to Prince Hal in “Henry IV” and he figures as the catalyst for the comic action in “Merry Wives.” Returning actor Steve Peebles (seen in “Bard in the Backcountry”) will play the old, fat scoundrel. Rumor has it that Queen Elizabeth herself commissioned the play because she wanted to see the “fat knight in love.”
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is an outreach program of Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture. Grants, corporate sponsorships and hundreds of individual donors support the free performance.
This year’s major sponsors include: The National Endowment for the Arts: ArtWorks, The Gilhousen Family Foundation, The Gianforte Family Foundation, Pheasant Farms, Spectec: Thunderbird International Corporation, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Foundation, Montana Arts Council, Barnard Construction, D.A. Davidson and Company, KBZK, ERA Landmark, Yellowstone Public Radio, Sibayne-Stillwater, and ERA Landmark.
For more information on the plays and an up-to-date tour schedule, visit MSIP’s website at shakespeareintheparks.org.