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Montana Shakespeare in the Parks on the road again

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After a year off, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is bringing the Bard to parks far and wide, including stops in St. Ignatius Aug. 27 and Charlo Aug. 28. 

The beloved touring company that’s been delivering free performances of Shakespeare to communities large and small for nearly 50 years took a hiatus during the pandemic. 

“I’ve been working in theater for well over 30 years and the energy of the audience on opening night (at Montana State University) was unlike anything I’ve every experienced,” says Executive Artistic Director Kevin Asselin. It was a testament, he believes, to the resilience and power of live theatre.

Asselin adds that a highlight of his job last spring was reconnecting with tour coordinators across five states, “to hear their enthusiasm, to hear their relief.” 

The director was also delighted to call actors – many of whom were unemployed during the past year – and say, “‘I have a job for you.’ I couldn’t imagine being in their shoes with so much uncertainty, so much unpredictability.” 

MSIP brings two productions to stages this year and both, says Asselin, are pertinent to the times we’re living in. Of course, that could be said of any Shakespeare play, since his longevity surely rests in relevancy and the undying power of his language. 

Christopher DuVal directs the perennial favorite, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” performed at 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27 at Good Old Days Park on Mountain View Dr. in St. Ignatius. Four young lovers find themselves in an enchanted forest at the mercy of a feuding fairy king and queen. As all discover, “The course of true love never did run smooth.”

While DuVal’s version of the romantic comedy takes inspiration from mid-1800s Europe, it also has influences from Asia, Greece and a purely imaginative realm.

“Cymbeline,” which Asselin directs, comes to the picturesque Palmer Park on Hwy. 212, east of Charlo, at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28. The Bard’s final play is part of an international project called “Cymbeline in the Anthropocene.” As the title suggests, the eight companies around the world selected to participate in this project have crafted productions that explore the Anthropocene – “the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.”

To that end, the set design contrasts a dark, industrial world on one side and a lush, natural environment on the other. Asselin says the play has “a Grimm’s fairytale feel,” as it elevates the theme of living with, and appreciating nature.

He notes that the play explores “the way in which people come together to forgive and pardon – which is particularly important during the last year. How can we listen to each other better? How can we communicate and be easy with our hearts to forgive and move forward?” 

On a personal level, Asselin says a year devoid of live theatre taught him some valuable lessons about the significance of acting before a live audience. As actors filtered back and in-person rehearsals began, he found himself and his actors feeling deeply grateful, and more present for the process. 

“We really came together – we listened, we communicated, and I encouraged people to fail so that they could understand themselves and the story better,” he says. “I felt we could be more playful, more risky, more bold and – as a result – I’m excited about the gravity of these stories and how they’ll play in the towns that we’re serving.”

Of course, COVID-19 remains a consideration. All of the actors who are traveling town to town this summer have been vaccinated, and the company worked closely with healthcare experts to develop a set of safety protocols for both actors and audience. 

“The greatest thing we have going for our organization is just being outdoors,” says Asselin. “My hope is that our communities take individual responsibility and practice mindfulness in how they approach our parks and our performances.” 

Ninepipe Arts Group, a nonprofit organization devoted to bringing arts and culture to the lower Mission Valley, sponsors both performances. Food and beverages, courtesy of Allentown Restaurant, will be available for purchase before each show. 

As always, admission is free to all Shakespeare in the Parks performances. For more information, visit


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