The Park County Arts Council is bringing Shakespeare to town once again.

Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part I” will be performed at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Washington Park in Powell and the same time Sunday “The Merry Wives of Windsor” will be performed at Canal Park in Cody. 

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks travels more than 7,000 miles during the season, running June 12-Sept. 3, performing in 61 communities in five states – Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington. 

All performances are offered free to the audience in local parks and public spaces, making them accessible to all.

Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director, will direct “Henry IV, Part I” while Chicago-based Marti Lyons will direct “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” 

The 11 professional actors that will tour with the company were chosen out of a highly competitive pool at auditions in Bozeman, Mont., Chicago, Minneapolis and Houston. Lyons returns as guest director after having worked at such notable institutions as the Goodman Theatre (Chicago), the Actors Theatre of Louisville and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The recent centennial of WWI inspired Asselin to set “Henry IV, Part I” in that era. 

“The play has such a deep relationship with the true meaning of honor,” he said. “Shakespeare gives us multiple viewpoints on what honor means to us as individuals. And it has a great relationship to Montana. If you look at the veteran population through the past 125 years, Montana leads the nation in terms of veterans per capita. I felt the connection would be exciting for us to explore.” 

Wyoming ranks fifth highest in the nation in veteran percentage of the civilian population at 14.1 percent.

It’s a “Summer of Falstaff” as one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters features prominently in both plays. The drunken knight is a foil to Prince Hal in “Henry IV” and he figures as the catalyst for the comic action in “Merry Wives.” 

The stage and microphones for both the Cody and Powell performances will be open an hour before each night’s show for local talent to showcase their skills. Contact Steve Schrepferman with the Park County Arts Council, (307) 899-6693 to reserve a time.

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is an outreach program of Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture. Grants, corporate sponsorships and hundreds of individual donors support the free performance.

These free performances are made possible through a generous grant from the Wyoming Arts Council funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wyoming State Legislature and from private donations.

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