Montana Shakespeare in the Parks
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, begun as an amateur company in 1973, has become a nationally known, highly respected professional company. It presents 76 outdoor performances to approximately 30,000 people every summer, a ten-week tour to middle and high schools every fall, and a nine-week tour every spring designed specifically to introduce elementary schools students to the magic of Shakespeare. Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is the only fully professional theater program in the state currently touring Shakespeare’s plays, the only company in the state that offers its performances free to the public, and one of the few companies that reaches extensively into rural areas. For the majority of these communities, especially those in underserved, rural areas, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is their only form of live, professional theater. Over 40% of these communities have a population of less than 2,000. Over the past 40 years, the summer touring program has performed over 2,250 times to over three quarters of a million people. The company is an outreach program of the College of Arts and Architecture at Montana State University.
As part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks toured Macbeth directed by Kevin Christopher Fox with a cast of eight, as part of their Montana Shakespeare-in-the-Schools program. In addition, the company provided workshops, post-performance talkbacks, study guides, and a contest for creating your own mini graphic novel. A total of 50 performances and 226 educational activities benefitted more than 13,700 middle- and high-school students from 49 schools located in Montana and Wyoming.
Anecdote from Company Manager and Actor Mark Kuntz:
An autistic boy in one community was invited to the fight call. He had been studying and reading the play, but didn’t want to see it, because in his mind it was real, and he thought he was going to see a real murder. One of the actors explained to him the tricks, so he could understand it was not real. In the end, he stayed for the performance, and the fear that he had held before was dispelled due to the time and care the actors showed him before the performance.