Hurray for Shakespeare!
Let us add our congratulations to MSU’s Montana Shakespeare in the Parks’ 40th year of summer tours.
Hamilton has been lucky enough to have the performers come to town for decades – from the very first appearance at Legion Park on South 2nd Street, to the Ravalli County Fairgrounds, to the River Park and now for the last few years, the Daly Mansion grounds.
This year’s show was Hamlet, which surprisingly enough, had never been performed by the troupe in the organization’s 40 years. The cast was up to the challenge, and the crowd was appreciative at the event last Wednesday, August 29.
A hallmark of the MSU program is to set the story in a different timeline – for instance, Hamlet is surrounded by the art deco of the late 1920s. This does a number of things. It gives those who’ve seen or read the play a fresh perspective and it shows the timelessness of the Bard’s words and plots.
The actors themselves go through trials and tribulations throughout the season. In Hamilton, for instance, one year the wind blew the set down. Macbeth was performed at the fairgrounds on a stage with no backdrops. It was still windy during the show, which made the whole evening a memorable event.
This year, it was the smoke-filled valley. The trees of the Daly Mansion grounds blocked most of the haze and there was a minimum of coughing from the audience, but from here the actors traveled to Salmon, Idaho, near the huge Mustang forest fire – with even more smoke. Just part of the job.
From Hobson to Ekalaka, from Bozeman to Eureka, the actors come to town, set up the stage during the day, perform at about 6 p.m., immediately “strike the set,” pack it up and drive to the next town for another performance the next day.
As I watched the play, I realized that Hamlet has provided more well-used lines than any of the other Shakespeare plays. “To be or not to be…,” “…to thine own self be true,” “the play’s the thing…,” “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark;” we’ve made them part of our culture.
And, sitting on a blanket or lawn chairs, watching an summertime outdoor performance of Montana Shakespeare In The Parks has become part of our Montana culture, too.