Shakespeare in the Park brings the Bard to local audiences

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Provo residents can enjoy Shakespearian masterpieces just like audiences of old, thanks to local theater company Shakespeare in the Park.

Sarah-Lucy Hill, a senior studying theater at BYU, had the idea to create the theater company Utah Shakespeare in the Park in 2010, but didn’t want to deal with the directing part of the organization. So instead of directing it herself, she went to the founder of Utah Shakespeare in the park, Anne Shakespeare.

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Cameron Bench and Meg Fee help bring life to Shakespeare’s plays in an outdoor setting. (Photo courtesy Randilee Warner of Time Capture Photography)

“Luckily, I had the wisdom to invite Anne Shakespeare to direct our first project, as it quickly became evident that I was much better at acting than directing or producing, and Anne has an incredible gift for directing,” Hill said. “She is in charge of the company.”

Since 2010, the organization has had a number of different members, but Anne still directs and handles the business side of the organization.

Hill said Shakespeare is meant to be seen, not read, and that many people have an aversion to Shakespeare because of boring high school English classes.

“In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ so much of the comedy is physical, and that’s all lost when you have to read it instead of watching it,” Hill said.

Utah Shakespeare in the Park doesn’t limit itself to the Bard’s texts. The company performed Oscar Wilde’s comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” in March. The play presented unique challenges to the actors.

“We had to master the British dialect, the speed at which the script moves, and we had to keep up with the extremely witty remarks that the characters are constantly coming up with,” Hill said. “It was remarkably exhausting, but wonderfully fun.”

The performances are intimate experiences, and the actors love connecting with the audience.

“The audience seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed it,” Casey Walker, a member of the company who studies film at Utah Valley University, said of one of his performances. “I think that surprised them since it was community theater, free and in the open park with no fancy set pieces.”

The company uses few set pieces or costumes (courtesy Sarah-lucy Hill)
Actors like Cameron Bench and Meg Fee perform with few set pieces or costumes. (Photo courtesy Randilee Warner of Time Capture Photography)

Utah Shakespeare in the Park takes a minimalistic approach to Shakespeare.

“As actors we have very little, if any, set pieces, costumes that mainly suggest rather than show and very few props,” said Adam Argyle, actor and resident fight director for the company. “It is simply us, the audience and the environment, and yet none of that is missed, the story is clear and the audience is engaged. It is acting at its most elemental.”

Although minimalistic, Hill said the stories are still accessible to everyone in the audience, even children.

“The most rewarding thing about working with this company is seeing kids in the audience enthralled by Shakespeare, laughing at the jokes, following the plot twists,” Hill said. “It’s cool when adults get it too, but it’s the best when kids fall in love with it.”

The company is presenting Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” May 16–18, 20, 23–25, 27, 30–31 and June 1 at Orem City Park.

The company can be followed at UtahShakespeareInThePark.wordpress.com.

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