By the time you read this, the first annual South Dakota Shakespeare Festival will be underway in Prentis Park in Vermillion.
The festival, sponsored by Coyoteopoly, a student group at USD, began today (June 8) and will conclude June 10 in the park, and will feature a performance of "As You Like It" at 7 p.m. each of those dates.
Workshops covering various aspects of theater will take place at the high school each day, as well, along with a scholars' roundtable at 3 to 4:30 p.m. June 9 at Old Main on the USD campus.
We can imagine that the thought of holding a Shakespeare Festival in the Great Plains could initially be a head scratcher to many people. We live in a region where popular culture easily embraces country music, tractor pulls, demolition derbies and baseball.
So why attend a live performance of a Shakespeare play?
To put it simply, William Shakespeare has invaded your life. Perhaps you were assigned to read one of his plays, first penned about four centuries ago, and you found the whole experience to be drudgery.
The fact that you've not read one of his works for years really doesn't matter. Shakespeare has come to you, in ways you can't imagine. There's a good chance you're rather fluent in what can best be described as Shakespearean-inspired banter, and you don't even realize it. You may think that this fact is "neither here nor there," but that's "the short and the long of it."
Bernard Levin said it best in the following quote about Shakespeare's impact on our language:
If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise – why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then – to give the devil his due – if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I were dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then – by Jove! O Lord! Tut, tut! for goodness' sake! what the dickens! but me no buts – it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare. (The Story of English, 145)
You have way too much in common with this great storyteller to pass up the festival at Prentis Park. Plus, there's so much going on right now. Check out the full schedule of events by logging on to: http://orgs.usd.edu/coyoteopoly/ShakespeareFestival/styled/styled-workshops/index.html
See you at Prentis Park!