Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Free at a Wisconsin state recreation spot near you: ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Summit Players Romeo and Juliet 2019_1559943617661.jpg.jpg

Summit Players Theatre traveling company will present William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in 18 Wisconsin state parks and recreation areas from June 15 to Aug. 18.

According to a press release: The Wisconsin-based company is returning for a fifth season.

All performances will be free and preceded by a 45-minute educational workshop.

This season, the company is visiting more state parks than ever and performing its first Shakespearean tragedy.

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The schedule

+ June 15: Richard Bong State Recreation Area: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ June 16: High Cliff State Park: workshop: 1 p.m.; show: 2:30 p.m.

+ June 21: Havenwoods State Forest: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ June 22: Wyalusing State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ June 23: Blue Mound State Park: workshop: 1 p.m.; show: 2:30 p.m.

+ June 28: Rib Mountain State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ June 29: Buckhorn State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ June 30: Hartman Creek State Park: workshop: 1 p.m.; show: 2:30 p.m.

+ July 12: Copper Falls State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ July 13: Lake Wissota State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ July 19: Three Bridges Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ July 20: Lake Kegonsa State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ July 21: Mirror Lake State Park: workshop: 1 p.m.; show: 2:30 p.m.

+ July 26: Wildcat Mountain State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ July 27: Interstate State Forest: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ July 29: Havenwoods State Park: show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 2: Kettle Moraine Pike Lake Unit: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 3: Kohler-Andrae State Park: workshop: 5:30 p.m.; show: 7 p.m.

+ Aug. 4: Peninsula State Park: workshop: 1 p.m.; show: 2:30 p.m.

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“This show may be different from the comedies we’ve performed before, but we’re offering audiences the same Summit Players experience they’ve come to know and love,” said Hannah Klapperich-Mueller, company founder and executive director. Klapperich-Mueller is a 2015 graduate of Marquette University.

“Our shows and workshops will still introduce audiences of all ages to Shakespeare’s language and characters in a fun, family-friendly way.”

Each “Romeo and Juliet” performance will be 75 minutes long and completely free, in accordance with the company’s mission of creating Shakespeare anyone can afford, attend and understand.

Through a collaboration with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Summit Players company is also able to introduce audiences around the state to their local parks.

The group’s educational workshop, “Playing with Shakespeare: Get Outside with Will,” is offered before every performance. The workshop serves as a way for children and “fun adults” to get comfortable with Shakespeare’s language, as well as learning more about the man himself and the way nature played into his works. Participants take part in Shakespeare games and exercises culminating in performing a short scene.

This year, the Summit Players team boasts three new members Ryan Zierk, Simon Earle and Jackson Hoemann. All three will act in “Romeo and Juliet” and serve as teaching artists for the company.

“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is such a well-known show, and it’s exciting to offer people a new take on it,” said Zierk, a recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Parkside. Whether people know the play really well or have never seen it before, they’ll have a great experience with it. Plus, it’s free, so anyone can come and enjoy.!

Summit Players Theatre’s 2019 season is supported in part by grants from the Wisconsin Arts Board and Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.

About Summit Players Theatre, Inc.: The only company in the country focused on touring a production through state parks, Summit Players Theatre builds connections between Shakespeare, the outdoors and fun. To do so, the company seeks innovative and original ways to perform, to connect the classics to our contemporary time. The company uses theater as a learning medium and introduce children to a passion for language, communicating and constructive play, while providing adults with an enjoyable theatrical experience. Info: summitplayerstheatre.com.

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Additionally, this email interview with A.J. Magoon, managing director and 2019 tour manager:

Q. What do your audiences come away with from a performance? 

A. Between the workshop and the performance, we want audiences to walk away with the understanding that Shakespeare is for everyone. “Romeo and Juliet” is a particularly great show in that regard, because it’s so widely known. Maybe you read it in high school and didn’t really love it, or you saw a long, long adaptation of it done years ago. Our production is a fresh take on the play that shows it can be exciting, understandable and accessible to audience members of any age or any level of experience with Shakespeare. The workshop we do sets participants up with knowledge about who Shakespeare was and why he wrote the way he did, and then our production allows people to understand and enjoy Shakespeare in a way they may not have before. Whether you’re a Shakespeare pro or you’ve never heard of him, whether you go to the theater every week or not at all, regardless of who you are or where you come from, Shakespeare is for you and the things he writes about are relevant to your life. We want people to come experience that both on a personal level and also within their community.

Working in the Wisconsin state parks is an added bonus, too. Hopefully, people who join us will recognize that the parks in their community are great places to enjoy events like this or just spend some time out in nature if they don’t already. Wisconsin’s state parks system is an incredibly vital (though sometimes undervalued) resource, and we aim to make people even more aware of the ways they can get outside to enjoy some of the beautiful places their local area, and this state, has to offer.

Q. How can the admission be free?

A. Audience members do have to pay to get into the parks ($8 per car for Wisconsin residents), but our program is supported by the Wisconsin DNR, a number of granting organizations (including the Wisconsin Arts Board, the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and Bader Philanthropies, among several others) and the generosity of individual donors, which allows us to keep the actual workshops and performances completely free to all participants. Our goal is to provide accessible theater opportunities to people across the state regardless of their background or income level. 

Q. To do Romeo and Juliet with a limited cast, what should the audience expect? 

A. Our six-actor cast, combined with the 75-minute adaptation of the play we’re offering, means audiences are in for a fast-paced, high-energy version of Shakespeare’s classic play. Expect moments of audience interaction, colorful characters and even music. “Romeo and Juliet” doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, but our adaptation handles that with respect in a family-friendly, accessible way audiences will enjoy the comedy in the early parts of the play just as much as the beautiful, poetic later moments. Expect to see Shakespeare in a new light and have a blast doing it.

Q. Tell me about the costuming what era?

A. The costumes for “Romeo and Juliet,” designed by Amelia Strahan, are based in the Italian Renaissance, but with a Summit twist: with six actors, all costumes are worn over a base uniform of a black T-shirt, jeans and Converse sneakers, and all costumes are quick-change friendly to allow our actors to play many characters in succession. Sometimes, a costume may be as simple as a hat or a vest, or as complex as a dress or doublet.

Q. Is the language adapted?

A. We use Shakespeare’s original text and remove extended metaphors, archaic references and other text to bring it down to 75 minutes and increase accessibility. All of Shakespeare’s words are there, there’s just less of them!

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My seven books are available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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