Shakespeare in the Parks

Erika Haaland, Torsten Johnson and Sarah Dunnavant star in “The Taming of the Shrew.” Montana Shakespeare in the Parks has given the play a wild west flavor.

HAMILTON  Montana Shakespeare in the Parks will give a free performance of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” at Sapphire Lutheran Homes in Hamilton on Monday, Aug. 17, at 6 p.m.

Artistic director Kevin Asselin is giving “The Shrew” a regional wild west take, providing a unique flavor.

“Shakespeare wrote the play with an introduction – so there is a Christopher Sly character that appears in his script that is an introduction to ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and a lot of directors don’t use it,” Asselin said. “I use it to highlight the points that Shakespeare was trying to make and steer our audience into recognizing the play as a love story. It is often viewed with an anti-feminism approach in the way Kate is treated.”

Asselin said he uses the character of Sly and the actors’ interpretations of how the characters unite.

“They develop a relationship grounded in play, sarcasm, wit and ideal love, so they are the anarchists of their time and highlight how those around them are superficial, arrogant and egocentric. They have a lot of fun in playing games and spinning tales.”

Asselin said he set the play in 1870 in South Pass City, Wyoming, because Wyoming Territory was the first to give women the vote (1869) and the first state to elect a female governor (1934).

“The 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920 and Montana and Wyoming were far ahead – giving women the right to vote early,” he said. “I gave the play a Western flavor, but I didn’t change Shakespeare’s language, just some location names like Helena, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Pass City, and we had fun with that, too.”

This is Shakespeare in the Parks’ 43rd season and the largest tour in its history, adding performances at 62 locations and reaching 47 percent of the rural communities with a population of less than 2,000. The tour has 10 professional actors selected from national auditions.

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 performances. The company is also supported by the National Endowment for the Arts: Art Works, which this year increased its support.

Other major sponsors include the Gilhousen Family Foundation, the Gianforte Family Foundation, Pheasant Farms, Subaru of America, Montana Arts Council, ADOUR Good Food and Catering, Barnard Construction, NorthWestern Energy, D.A. Davidson and Co., Elise Donohue, Double D Ranch, KBZK and the MSU Alumni Foundation.

“We always have great audiences in Hamilton,” said Asselin. “I was an actor with SIP one year and we had a huge windstorm there once and our set was beginning to topple and the audience got up and held it in place. Hamilton is a great place for us to play.”

Enjoy the free performance of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks’ “The Taming of the Shrew” on the lawn of Sapphire Lutheran Homes in Hamilton, Aug. 17, at 6 p.m. The audience is encouraged to arrive early with chairs, blankets and picnics.

For more information on the plays and a complete tour schedule, visit shakespeareintheparks.org.

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