By Ben Olson
If a person embarked on a mission to watch all of William Shakespeare’s plays from start to finish, the exercise would take just shy of five days — a marathon session that makes watching the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy seem like a TikTok video.
There is one other option, however — check out Montana Shakespeare in the Park’s production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10 at the Panida Theater. This is a free show and open to all.
Spending roughly two minutes on each of his 37 plays, The Complete Works has been hailed as an irreverent romp reminiscent of the Monty Python films. This fast-paced play features three actors — Calvin Adams, Charlotte Mae Ellison and Riley O’Toole with Mikey Gray working as a development/outreach associate — weaving their merry way through all of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories and tragedies at a slapdash pace, covering the entire canon in just 90 minutes.
“It’s slightly loose in structure,” said Dan Meulenberg, the local host for Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. “It’s a little bit of audience participation, almost like a little bit of improv.”
Meulenberg said the Pend Oreille Arts Council is a “major underwriter,” helping make this production happen in Sandpoint, along with Refined Aesthetics, which lent a hand to subsidize the rental of the Panida Theater. Eichardt’s Pub will provide dinner for the actors before the show, and Family Health Center is underwriting advertising and marketing.
“Attending live theater can be a very moving and powerful experience,” Meulenberg told the Reader. “Shakespeare is widely regarded as one of the greatest artists in all of literature based on his plays and poetry. The themes he tackles in his plays are universal and, in many cases, his plays such as Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth are still considered the defining examples of blind power, family betrayal and delayed decision-making leading to incomprehensible tragedy. … Plus, he knew how to have fun and even in his hilarious comedies we experience the depths of human experience.”
The upcoming performance of The Complete Works comes after a successful summer production of Twelfth Night by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks at Lakeview Park, with Meulenberg estimating a crowd two times larger than the previous year.
“It was amazing to me, as always, to see young kids on the edge of their seats, so to speak, leaning forward and hanging on every word of dialogue in the play,” he said. “In a world flooded with electronic media, to see these kids mesmerized by a play written over 400 years ago actually makes me a bit emotional.”
This production is 100% free, which is part of Montana Shakespeare in the Park’s mission that no one is to charge any admission for any of their performances.
“The fact that this is free is amazing on so many levels,” Muelenberg added.
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