Montana Shakespeare in the Parks will give free performances of “Henry IV, Part I” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” this summer in communities in Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.
The company comes to Billings July 11 - 12, performing for free each night at 6:30 p.m. at Pioneer Park as part of its season that began in June and runs through Sept. 3.
In total, the company will travel more than 7,000 miles and perform in 61 communities. All performances, except the Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman, are free and hosted in local parks and public spaces, making them accessible to all, according to a press release.
Plays feature 11 professional actors chosen from auditions in Bozeman, Chicago, Houston, and Minneapolis.
Chicago-based director Marti Lyons oversees “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Lyons returns as a guest director after working at Goodman Theatre in Chicago, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
“Henry IV, Part I” is directed by Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, who describes the play as having a deep relationship with honor.
Asselin was inspired by recent centennial of World War I to set “Henry IV, Part I” in that era. “Shakespeare gives us multiple viewpoints on what honor means to us as individuals," Asselin said in a press release. "And it has a great relationship to Montana. If you look at the veteran population through the past 125 years, Montana leads the nation in terms of veterans per capita. I felt the connection would be exciting for us to explore.”
One of Shakespeare’s most popular characters, Falstaff, is featured prominently in both plays. The drunken knight is a foil to Prince Hal in “Henry IV” and the catalyst for the comic action in “Merry Wives.” Returning actor Steve Peebles will play the role.
Regional performances include:
- July 5, Sheridan, Wyo., “Merry Wives,” 6:30 p.m., Kendrick Park Bandshell
- July 6, Birney, “Henry IV,” 6 p.m., Poker Jim Butte
- July 7, Big Timber, “Henry IV,” 6:30 p.m., Lions Club Park
- July 8, Hardin, “Merry Wives,” 6 p.m., South Park
- July 9, Roundup, “Henry IV,” 6:30 p.m., Roundup City Park
- July 10, Red Lodge, “Merry Wives,” 6:30 p.m., Lions Park
- July 11, Billings, “Henry IV,” 6:30 p.m., Pioneer Park
- July 12, Billings, “Merry Wives,” 6:30 p.m., Pioneer Park
- July 13, Powell, Wyo., “Henry IV,” 6:30 p.m., Washington Park
- July 14, Cody, Wyo., “Merry Wives,” 6:30 p.m., Canal Park
- July 15, Worland, Wyo., “Merry Wives,” 6 p.m., Sanders Park
- July 16, Columbus, “Henry IV,” 6:30 p.m., Heritage Park
- July 17, Absarokee/Fishtail, “Merry Wives,” 6:30 p.m., Fishtail Family Park
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is an outreach program of Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture. Grants, corporate sponsorships, and individual donors support the free performances. For a complete schedule, visit shakespeareintheparks.org.