Prentis Park Transformed Into Outdoor Theatre
Full of political intrigue and gripping drama, Richard III, will entertain audiences of all ages. Catch a performance of the history play by William Shakespeare this weekend during the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF), being held at Prentis Park.
“Richard III, very loosely based on British history, traces the ascent to power, and turbulent demise of Richard Duke of Gloucester, in the infamous War of the Roses,” said Chaya Gordon-Bland, SDSF Artistic Director. “This play, however, has a lot to say to American audiences today. It asks provocative questions about the nature of power, politics, and what role ‘standers-by’ do or do not play in the perpetuation of violence and misdeeds.”
Directing the play this year is Kate Powers, a Drama League Directing Fellow and Fulbright Scholar in Shakespeare. Leading the cast in the title role is Jeff Raab, who played the part of Dromio of Syracuse in last year’s SDSF production of The Comedy of Errors. In Richard III, Raab plays the role of Duke of Gloucester, a power-hungry villain who will stop at nothing to ascend the throne in England. He is joined on stage by 16 other actors who take on more than 60 roles throughout the play.
“It’s been a particularly intense preparation process this year, largely because Richard III is a BIG play,” said Gordon-Bland. “There are over 60 characters, live music, extensive text, and a battle! We are excited to see it all come together. We also have four children in this year’s production: Elliza and Henry Mollman, from Vermillion, and Bella and Natalee Drissell, from Sioux Center, Iowa. It is a joy to have them involved in the production.”
Performances of Richard III will take place tonight, Friday, June 8, and tomorrow, Saturday, June 9, at 7 p.m. and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 10, in Prentis Park. Whatever day you come, arrive an hour early to enjoy live music and food and beverage vendors.
A special Scholars in Conversation event, hosted by USD’s College of Arts and Sciences, will take place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, June 9, in Prentis Park. Join Brett Gamboa (Dartmouth College) and Darlene Farabee (University of South Dakota) as they discuss some of the secrets of this play.
On Sunday June 10, following the 4 pm matinee performance, the audience is invited to stay for a discussion and talk-back with the SDSF artistic company.
As usual, the SDSF organization is providing a variety of outreach programming in conjunction with this year’s South Dakota Shakespeare Festival.
“This summer we are embarking upon a brand new Apprenticeship program in partnership with Flandreau Indian School (FIS),” explains Gordon-Bland. “Four FIS summer-school students have been working as apprentices for the SDSF this summer, in the areas of costumes, painting, and photography. We are very excited to have them as part of our company!”
In addition, the SDSF partnered with the Vermillion Public Library this year to offer free workshops for youth. Those workshops, which focused on acting, costuming, and other theatre-related topics, were held yesterday.
“We thought it would be wonderful to tie-in our youth workshops with the amazing environment and community already built-in at the Vermillion Public Library,” explains Gordon-Bland. “We’re hoping this change in environment will help us engage a broader range of youth. The second day of workshops we are offering a full afternoon of experiences for students in USD’s Upward Bound program. We have been partnering with Upward Bound for a number of years, and we are excited to see this partnership flourish and grow.”
This summer, the SDSF is also partnering with the Sanford Senior Care Center, SESDAC, and the Minnehaha Juvenile Detention Center, offering special programming to share Shakespeare with a wider audience.
Gordon-Bland is excited to see everything come together this weekend.
“It’s always so exciting to see the work come together in the park, and to witness the community excitement and enjoyment,” she said. “Every year, the SDSF grows a little more, and we also reach more and more audience members every year. I’m excited to share the fruits of our labor with our Vermillion-area friends and neighbors, and arts patrons from across the state, region, and country.”
If you haven’t attended the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival in the past, come this year, said Gordon-Bland.
“The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival provides a truly special experience and opportunity,” she said. “We bring together professional artists from around the country for four weeks to dig in intensively into one of Shakespeare’s plays, and create a piece of exciting, dynamic, world-class theatre to share with our communities. If you love Shakespeare, this is a great way to see the plays come to life. If you are new to Shakespeare, this is a welcoming way to experience it for the first time. If you’re not sure that Shakespeare is really your thing, come for the community experience, the music, vendors, and gathering of neighbors in a beautiful outdoor setting. And you just might discover that Shakespeare truly offers something to everyone!”
In keeping with the SDSF’s mission of accessibility, all programming is offered at no cost to the public. Free will donations are encouraged.