William Shakespeare is an institution. Scholars continue to devote their entire lives to an author's work that is oftentimes cryptic in its own anachronism. How can contemporary theater possibly make classic plays written by a man who would be 447 years old if he were alive today seem relevant, especially to youth? The Public Theater of Minnesota can help answer that.
The Public Theater is brand new to St. Louis Park, on a mission to provide working opportunities in a non-academic environment for young actors. The group will be opening their production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" this Friday at the Veteran's Amphitheater at Wolfe Park. The show will feature a young, talented cast taking their direction from Mark Hauck.
"I feel so lucky to have a really smart, hardworking group of actors," Hauck, whose oldest cast member is 23 years old, said. "Their discipline really is amazing, digging into the heart of Shakespeare's story and understanding every single word."
They may be a young group but each person is coming in with their own respective acting background. Some made the short drive over from the Guthrie's B.F.A. program, others came up from Dexter, Drake or Viterbo. To top it off, the play is scored by a music major from the University of Minnesota.
"Shakespeare in the Park" is an idea that's been done across the world, but it's new to St. Louis Park and the outdoor Veteran's Amphitheater. Hauck believes the combination is a perfect match.
"It's not on the Mississippi River, it's not on some big lake, but there is something magical about Wolfe Park in the evening that makes it well-suited for outdoor Shakespeare," he said.
The actors seem to be thrilled about working outside as well.
"Being outdoors gives the play a different energy," said Philip Eschweiler, who plays the role of Nick Bottom. "It makes everything more engaging. Like right now, people are walking through the park and stopping by to watch rehearsal. All of a sudden the theater making process becomes transparent and here we are, completely naked to scrutiny."
The goal for this production is to bring people together over a common bond, whether they love Shakespeare or are being introduced to him for the first time. The fact that it's happening locally, in the Shopping District's backyard, makes it easy for St. Louis Park residents to come out and experience it firsthand.
"This really is Shakespeare for the people," Hauck said. "It's founded on the core beliefs of community theater, which is people coming together and listening to stories. We're all very proud what we've done."
IF YOU GO
What: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
Where: Veteran's Amphitheater at Wolfe Park (near )
When: Opening night is Friday at 8 p.m.; performances will continue on weekends through July 31
Tickets: $14 regular, $10 youth and senior. Tickets can be purchased online or at the Rec Center