Thespians on the green

UND theatre faculty, staff, alumni and students to present plays at University Park with North Dakota Shakespeare

North Dakota Shakespeare is to perform two of the Bard’s plays – Much Ado About Nothing and Macbeth – this June at University Park in Grand Forks. (Above): Emily Wirkus and KP Powell channel Beatrice and Benedick in costumes by Camilla Morrison, University of North Dakota costume designer and instructor. Image courtesy of North Dakota Shakespeare.

If you go:
Much Ado About Nothing on June 11-15 at 7 p.m., and June 16 at 2p.m.
Macbeth will be performed on June 15 at 2p.m.
Both plays set for University Park in Grand Forks

Shakespeare is to frolic in the park this summer.

Or rather, so are the Bard’s characters of Hero and Claudio, Beatrice and Benedick, among the rest of the personalities that make Much Ado About Nothing.

In mid-June, the love comedy is to unfurl at University Park in Grand Forks thanks to North Dakota Shakespeare, a professional theatre company founded in 2017 to make the craft easily accessible to the community.

This year’s main production heeds the positive response from last season, when the audience reveled at another of Shakespeare’s comedies, Twelfth Night.

“The crowd seemed very excited about comedies, so we decided we will stick with a comedy,” said  Stephanie Faatz Murry, producing artist director and assistant professor of theatre arts at Ouachita Baptist University.

Much Ado, however, is far from devoid of tragic moments. Quite a few of those dot the course of the two budding relationships that define the play, which North Dakota Shakespeare will relay in two acts.

“You have both sides of Shakespeare’s writing,” said Murry.

Those who might long for a riveting Shakespeare tragedy, though, will have their itch satisfied with Macbeth, which is to be performed unrehearsed in what is a novel undertaking for North Dakota Shakespeare.

“We wanted to be able to offer a comedy and a tragedy in the season but because of some budgetary constraints and time constraints, it wasn’t realistic to produce two full productions,” said Murry.

While Much Ado is a fully produced play, Macbeth offered a new opportunity for North Dakota Shakespeare to perform without rehearsals. While the move stemmed from time and budgetary constraints, it brings a dose of authenticity to the tragedy, which is to be played only once on June 15. Image courtesy of North Dakota Shakespeare.

 

Modern-day circumstance

Hence, the thespians had received their lines but no one else’s. Advised not to dissect the play beforehand, which is a cornerstone endeavor for a typical production, the actors are only to learn their peers’ roles at the day of the play, on June 15.

While spurred by modern-day circumstances at the production company, that unstudied approach to theatre harks back to Shakespeare’s epoch, bringing historical relevance to the work, Murry said.

Another treat for the audience stems from the diverse talent to step on the stage – or rather, on the grass as no platform will be constructed for the plays.

North Dakota Shakespeare’s cast and crew this year hail from three countries and 14 states. The University of North Dakota is also represented with four faculty members, one staff employee, a student as well as several theatre alumni.

They are all to create what Murry describes as a “little more welcoming and non-threatening” tact to theatre. Away from an auditorium and free of charge, University Park plays are meant to attract even those who think theatre “might not be for them,” she said.

While there are bleachers, play goers may bring blankets and chairs.

In the event of inclement weather, the plays will be called off and updates will be shared on social media as well as the North Dakota Shakespeare website.

Much Ado About Nothing Cast:

Beatrice….………………………………………..Emily Wirkus (received BFA in Musical Theatre at UND)

Benedick…………………………………..……..KP Powell

Hero……………………………………………….Sydney Berk

Claudio……………………………………………Brett Olson (movement instructor at UND)

Leonata……………………………………………Emily Cherry (associate professor and head of BFA Musical Program at UND)

Don Pedro………………………………………..Matt IpShaw

Dogberry………………………………………….Matthew Murry

Margaret…………………………………………..Stephanie Faatz Murry

Don John (u/s Benedick)…………………….Marcus-Anthony Nealy

Balthasar/Friar Francis/Antonio (u/s Don Pedro)…….Brandon Herring

Borachio (u/s Claudio)…………………………Ryan Pangracs

Conrade (u/s Hero)……………………………..Nicole Dunseith

Ursula (u/s Beatrice)…………………………..Veronica Folkedahl (Musical Theatre Performance student at UND)

Verges……..…………………………………….…..Lauren Dowell

Watchman……..…………………………………..Adina Weinstein

Much Ado About Nothing Crew:

Producing Artistic Director…………..…………..Stephanie Faatz Murry

Associate Artistic Director…………..…………….Brett Olson

Unrehearsed Coordinator/Text Coach………..Bill Kincaid

Director ………………………………………………….Carrie Colton

Assistant Director..………………………………….Matthew Murry

Dramaturg………………..……………………………Dr. Aili Davidson Smith (received an MA in Theatre at UND)

Stage Manager..………………………………………Wendy Unger

Assistant Stage Manager/Props Coordinator……………Lauren Dowell

Scenic/Lighting Designer…………………………Brad Reissig (associate professor of scenic and lighting design at UND)

Costume Designer/Shop Manager.……………Camilla Morrison (costume designer and instructor at UND)

Technical Director/Sound Designer…………..Loren Liepold (UND Theatre Arts technical director)

Costume Shop Apprentice/Wardrobe Head…..…………..Taran Estad (recent UND theatre arts graduate)

Technical Apprentice/Run Crew.………………Shauna Steward

Graphic Designer…………………………………….Adam Wheat

UND College of Art and Sciences hold a producer credit because of its season sponsorship.