September 26, 2022
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Column: Celebrating summer with Shakespeare in the Park | Local entertainment

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Here at the WYO Theater, we are looking forward to the summer months: warmer weather, outdoor gatherings, polo matches and Shakespeare in the Park from our longtime partner Montana Shakespeare in the Parks.

We are especially excited to be hosting Montana Shakespeare in the Parks this summer as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary Tour with Shakespearean powerhouse, “King Lear.”

As many know, “King Lear” tells the story of a king who divides his kingdom amongst his two insincere eldest daughters while banishing his third, youngest daughter, who genuinely loves him. The king himself is then banished from his eldest daughter’s homes, driving him mad and leaving him to wander aimlessly through a storm.

This, of course, is the briefest of descriptions of the story. 

There is much, much more that happens in the pages of the play, events that probe the depths of human suffering and despair. “King Lear” was first staged in 1606 and for centuries this play was thought too bleak to perform. It has since become one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays and provides an incredible acting challenge particularly for the character of the King.

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks opened its first season in the summer of 1973. The amateur acting company, founded by Bruce Jacobsen, was comprised of a mixture of students and community members. The company performed Shakespearean scenes only and the season consisted of 13 performances in seven cities in Montana. The goal was to bring Shakespeare directly to the people of Montana — particularly those in rural, underserved communities who would not otherwise have the opportunity to see The Bard’s work. 

The following summer, two full productions — “The Taming of the Shrew” and “The Merchant of Venice” — were mounted by a paid professional company and staff. The season doubled to include 26 performances in 18 cities. 

The Montana Shakespeare in the Parks Company as we now know it was born.

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is dedicated to preserving the cultural traditions of theatre and literature. Through artistic expression, they aim to provide lively entertainment to all people, evoking smiles and laughter alongside tears of joy and sorrow.

Shakespeare in the Parks is “always free all summer” and is presented locally by the WYO and a cadre of terrific supporters.

We invite you to bring your family and a picnic and enjoy “King Lear” at the Kendrick Park Bandshell July 8 at 6:30 p.m. It’s what summer is about.

Erin Butler is executive director of the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. 



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