The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) will be held in person at Prentis Park this summer from June 17-20, unlike the remote festival that was streamed online last summer.
Artistic Director, Chaya Gordon-Bland, said the mission of the SDSF is to engage, connect and inspire communities by exploring our shared human experiences through inclusive professional Shakespeare productions and theatre arts education.
“Theatre and Shakespeare have the power to bring people together, to lift people up and to create these shared, collective human experiences —shared, collective explorations of what it means to be human in ways that are equitable and inclusive and inviting,” Gordon-Bland said.
The festival will also include live music, food and drink vendors and other activities.
Oliver Mayes will be directing the Shakespeare play “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” performed at the festival.
“There’s the performances, but there’s also food, there’s live music, it’s very festival-like, hence its name,” Mayes said. “The festival teaches the younger community about theatre performance and Shakespeare’s work and then it’s also offering live performances.”
The theatre portion of the festival will be entirely free.
“The Shakespeare Festival is offering free theatre, but that’s not common throughout the country,” Mayes said. “I’m originally from Oregon and lived in L.A. then New York, then I found myself here for grad school, so I’ve seen and worked in many theatre conditions. It’s really beautiful they have committed to offering people free theatre because it’s really few and far between.”
Mayes and the board of directors are now in the process of hiring a cast.
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“The director kind of guides what I would refer to as the world of the play. I make decisions on the aesthetic of the production, or what I would call my concept, so what kind of world are we living in. My job starts with building what that world looks like,” Mayes said. “A lot of my work is also working with the actors; I coach the acting.”
A lot of work goes into making a play come to life and directing a production.
“My focus in working as the director is finding common ground with people so that each artist is getting fulfillment in the process. We see their artistry come through,” Mayes said. “I would say my job is taking a bunch of different artistic visions and making them mesh together to be one whole cohesive piece.”
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The SDSF partners with several organizations including Outward Bound, Sesdac, The Sanford Care Center and the Minnehaha Juvenile Detention center to offer programing, workshops and education throughout the year, Gordan-Bland said.
SDSF also hosts theatre art workshops at the Vermillion Public library.
The festival will be socially distanced and require face coverings throughout the event.
“I have to figure out another new love language while directing that we can operate off of since we can’t physically connect,” Mayes said.
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For more information go to sdshakespearefestival.org