Shakespeare festival will premiere in Vermillion with ‘As You Like It’

Allen Jones performs “O Mistress Mine” from William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Vermillion Tuesday. Jones was one of several University of South Dakota students attending the meeting dressed in Shakespearian garb. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

"All the world's a stage."

At least, Prentis Park's stone amphitheater will be on June 8-10, 2012, when it is the site of the inaugural South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF).

"As You Like It" – the play from which the above line originates – will be the inaugural show, it was revealed Tuesday.

The announcement was made during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Vermillion in the Al Neuharth Media Center that afternoon.

"Filled with music, poetry, romance and lots of good, clean fun, this comedy promises to warm your heart, tickle your intellect and soothe your soul," said Chaya Gordon-Bland, SDSF artistic director and assistant professor of theatre at the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts.

Two representatives of Coyoteopoly – one of the organizers of the festival – also were on hand to discuss the event's financial status.

The overall budget is "just over $39,000" said Greg Miner, Coyoteopoly CEO.

"We're not all the way there yet, as far as funding is (concerned)," Miner said. "We have about $19,500 in the bank ready to spend on this project. We have about $8,000 in receivables from the grants and a few sponsorship pledges that we still need to collect. That just leaves $11,500 for us to still go out there and collect (before) the event actually occurs."

One of the primary focuses of next semester is to recruit new sponsors among area businesses and individuals.

"We plan to advertise in all different mediums, from T-shirts to billboards across the state that we plan on putting on the Interstates, along with brochures and things like that," said Coyoteopoly president Elly Smith.

She added that free online advertising will be utilized through social networking Web sites such as Facebook.

"Any of the possible facilities we have, we're going to try to use," Smith said.

The group already has received two sizeable grants toward its marketing budget – a $968 South Dakota Department of Tourism Matching Dollars Challenge Grant, and a $2,500 South Dakota Arts Council Project Grant.

Last semester saw approximately $5,000 in in-kind donations, and a further $12,000 has been raised from a total of 45 sponsors, Miner said.

An estimated $22,000 will be required to cover hiring costs for the production itself, he said.

"We're going to hire about 25 folks to be part of this production, going anywhere to the directors to actors, people behind the scenes creating the sets," Miner said.

The production will be mounted both by local USD students and out-of-town professionals, creating "an educational component," Gordon-Bland said.

Another $3,000 will be needed for an educational roundtable to take place next year that will feature three scholars – one local, and two from elsewhere.

"They will come in and have a roundtable discussion about the play to educate the community," Miner said. "It'll be a really great opportunity."

Gordon-Bland took time to acknowledge the people and groups behind the event, including Coyoteopoly, Greg Huckabee, SDSF's executive director, and production manager/technical director Scott Mollman.

Among the other groups and individuals she thanked for aid and sponsorship were USD's College of Fine Arts and the Department of Theatre, the Beacom School of Business, and the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the city of Vermillion, the Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company, Vermillion School District, Sanford Vermillion Hospital, CorTrust Bank, First Bank and Trust, First Dakota National Bank, Raziel's Restaurant, the Prairie Inn, Polaris Industries, and the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Gordon-Bland said the first year of the festival will be something on which to expand as the festival grows and changes.

"I think the goal this year is to start small and manageable, and really create something … that Coyoteopoly and the College of Fine Arts, and this group of people in this size community, can successfully accomplish," she said. "Vermillion will always be the home base of the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival. Vermillion will always be able to claim that.

"But, what I would like to do see expand on not only our length of time, not only the length of shows we offer, but in terms of what area of geography we cover – in particular to cater to communities in the region that don't have access to arts and culture in the way that we might have it," she said.

For more information, visit www.sdshakespearefestival.org, or contact Company@sdshakespearefestival.org or (605) 622-0423.

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