Montanans are proud of the state's world-class trout streams, abundant elk herds and their ongoing love affair with Shakespeare.
Hang around bars, billiard halls or
restaurants across the state and you can easily strike up a
conversation with the locals on which of the bard's plays and
characters rings true to their heart. Shakespeare was first brought
to the Yellowstone country when trappers like Jim Bridger traipsed
across the landscape, mixing quotes from the playwright's pen into
their daily language. Today this tradition continues through
Montana State University's Shakespeare in the Park Program. While
many Westerners flock to Shakespeare festivals in Ashland, Ore.,
Santa Fe, N.M., and Cedar City, Utah, over 30,000 Montana residents
plan their summer schedule around when the Shakespeare in the Park
troupe visits their town.
"Our popularity stems
from Shakespeare's plays and themes being timeless," says Joel
Jahnke, the program's director. This year the company will serve up
a 19th-century Dickensian adaptation of Measure for
Measure and Much Ado About Nothing,
set in an Italian Renaissance villa.
season will find the company's 11 actors and actresses logging
6,000 miles across Montana and parts of Wyoming and Idaho, giving
over 60 performances in 51 towns.
will be given from June 22 to Sept. 6 in such locales as Libby and
Eureka, the ranching community of Birney, the wheatfields of Havre
and Roundup and the academic centers of Bozeman and
"Folks love putting up the actors and
actresses," says Debbie Lyman of Heron, Mont., "and a group of
local women known as the Pandemonium International Gourmet Society
serves them a feast after the play is done."
Funding for the troupe is provided by the local
towns, Subaru and US West and arts grants from the state. For more
information about Shakespeare in the Park, visit its Web site at
http://opal.msu.montana.edu/wwwmtsip/ or call 406/994-3901.