By Travis Gulbrandson
While the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival had a solid opening with “As You Like It” in the summer of 2012, its second season was scuttled altogether.
That won’t be the case this year, however, when its second season will take place June 13-15 in Prentis Park with a production of “The Taming of the Shrew.”
The announcement was made Monday afternoon during a regular meeting of the Vermillion Rotary Club.
Like the inaugural season of the festival, the summer’s offering is a comedy, described by founding artistic director Chaya Gordon-Bland as “a rollicking ride of banter, bawdiness and classic battling of the sexes.”
Rotary club members were given a sneak preview when University of South Dakota students Tony Garcia and Emily Dorsett performed the scene in which the play’s two main characters, Petruchio and Kate, meet for the first time.
The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival is organized and run by Coyoteopoly, a USD student-run corporation that strives to provide charitable work for the Vermillion area.
“The mission of the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival is to increase the cultural, artistic and educational offerings in the state of South Dakota and the surrounding regions through professional Shakespeare performance and arts education events delivered in a lively and accessible format,” Gordon-Bland said.
As with the first year, students will be organizing virtually every aspect of the festival.
“This year we are proud to receive our second South Dakota Arts Council Grant for support of the 2014 season,” Gordon-Bland said. “Looking forward, Coyoteopoly and the board of directors are hard at work in the areas of sales, fundraising, PR, HR, operations and everything else that goes into running a business.”
One of the first fundraising opportunities will take place on Feb. 28 in the John A. Day Gallery in the fine arts building on the USD campus, a wine-tasting event called “Wine with Will.”
“Shrew’s” acting company will consist of between 12-14 actors, the same number that took part in Shakespeare’s original productions.
“With 12-14 actors, you actually can cast any Shakesepeare play,” Gordon-Bland said. “That doesn’t mean there are 12-14 characters – Henry V for example has 50-some characters – but you can actually double (actors in separate roles).”
USD theatre students will be given opportunities to audition for the production, along with other actors throughout the region and the nation.
“What we’re really looking for is a combination of local actors from the university and elsewhere (and) regional actors,” Gordon-Bland said. “I’ll be going down to Lincoln, NE, next week, and I also do a round of auditions in New York City, which is highly-competitive by appointment, and we’ll be able probably to bring in between two and four actors from New York City.”
She added that in the 2012 company, the locally-trained actors “really held their own” with those who came from New York.
“It was a very smooth and successful company,” she said.
All of the actors will arrive in Vermillion for rehearsals four weeks before the festival takes place.
Another aspect of the festival is that of Shakespeare- and theatre-related education for young students, which remained last summer despite the lack of a performance.
Gordon-Bland said the vision for the festival is that eventually, it will “grow out,” offering performances of multiple plays throughout the weekend, and performances in other communities.
Coyoteopoly hopes to expand the educational aspect, as well, offering a service-learning opportunity for students in USD’s Acting Shakespeare class.
“That’s probably the piece that will happen first,” Gordon-Bland said. “There’s discussion underway to do a pilot program in 2015-16.”
The Coyoteopoly students and Gordon-Bland thanked the local groups and individuals for their part in bringing the festival to town, including the Vermillion Rotary Club, the City of Vermillion, Sanford Vermillion and Dakota Hospital Foundation, USD’s Beacom School of Business, College of Fine Arts and Department of Theatre, President James Abbott, College of Arts and Sciences and English Department, the Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company, the South Dakota Arts Council, local and regional businesses.
The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival was founded in 2011 by Coyoteopoly’s executive director, Greg Huckabee.
Its first season attracted approximately 1,100 visitors to Prentis Park, with an additional 100 young people to the various educational programs.
The play was given the Best Local Production Award from the Sioux City Journal in May 2013.