KOKOMO, Ind. — Enjoy Shakespeare under the stars, as the Hoosier Shakespeare Festival brings two productions to the Indiana University Kokomo Earth Stage starting Thursday, June 10.
Dennis Henry, visiting lecturer in theatre, directs The Tempest, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 10, and Saturday, June 12. The second production, Richard III, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 11, and Sunday, June 13. All are on the Earth Stage, behind the Main Building, and are open to the public.
The Hoosier Shakespeare Festival, based in Marion, is a semi-professional theatre company, with the mission of producing accessible, quality productions for people in Indiana. This is the first year the festival has come to Kokomo, in addition to performances in Marion, Fairmount, and Wabash.
Henry said directors and actors focus on making the production accessible and enjoyable for the audience, because many think Shakespeare is too hard to understand.
“It’s different than most plays you’ve been to,” he said. “The audience is visible, so we often talk directly to them, and engage with them during the play. It’s a very interactive and personal experience. It’s a community environment.”
The actors are also good singers and musicians, he added, and there is live music before each show and at intermission, as well as incorporated into the plays.
Those attending should bring a chair, and Henry said in keeping with COVID-19 safety measures, spots will be marked to allow sufficient distance between groups.
The Tempest is a comedy about a major act of betrayal, the development of magic arts, and a plot of revenge.
“It’s amazing how funny and how relevant it still is, even though it’s 400 years old,” Henry said, noting that the main character is exiled on a deserted island and must choose between revenge or reconciliation when his enemies fall into his hands.
“In a time when the last few years have been rough, and the country feels divided, a play with focus on the important of forgiveness seems like a pretty important one,” he said. “It’s a pretty compelling story that asks us, when we’re wrong, do we keep going and make it worse, or do we do the hard thing, which is forgiveness, and trying to make things better.”
The second show is Richard III, which tells the story of Richard of Gloucester, who uses manipulation and deceit to achieve his goal of becoming king of England. He murders his brothers, nephews, and any opposition to become King Richard III, but is later defeated by Henry VII.
Henry noted that the same cast of 13 people performs both shows, many playing multiple roles in both, with just under three weeks of rehearsals to prepare both shows.
“It’s really fun to see all the different things one actor can do,” he said, adding that he’s encouraged students in his theatre classes to attend.
“The students are one of the reasons it was important for me to bring the festival to campus,” he said. “It can be a small bubble at a university to just see our shows. This gives them the opportunity to see professional actors at work, and what is involved in a production.”
Admission is pay-what-you-will, allowing those attending to choose their ticket price, starting at free. Value of the tickets is $35 each.