30 Years of Free Shakespeare

Get ready for a sumptuous summer of Shakespearean proportions. Montana Shakespeare in the Parks theatre ensemble commemorates its 30th anniversary by performing two of Shakespeare's most entertaining plays, Henry IV, Part I and The Comedy of Errors. Break out the picnic basket, grab a comfy lawn chair, a tarp, or even a wooden crate. As Falstaff, the inveterate jokester of Henry IV, reminds us, "a good wit will make use of anything."

Thirty years may seem like a drop in the bucket compared with over 400 years of people performing Shakespeare's plays, but to Montana Shakespeare in the Parks' artistic director, Joel Jahnke, turning 30 is something of a coming of age — much like Prince Hal’s in Henry IV. "When we had our 25th anniversary, it was really something," Jahnke says, "but with 30 comes more maturity, more responsibility." Having traveled over 250,000 miles and presented 1,535 performances to a cumulative audience of over half a million people, this award-winning, rural theatre company has become the most extensive Shakespearean touring company in the nation.

"I think it’s perfect for us to do Henry IV this year," Jehnke says. "The play has everything that makes Shakespeare magic to us. It has wonderful themes, comedy, drama, fights, history — and a wonderful storyline of a young boy coming of age and his relationship with his father."

In celebration of 30 years under the evening sky, MSP will be putting on two extra performances in the Bozeman area for a total of 14 local shows this summer. Besides Henry IV, they will also perform The Comedy of Errors, a hilarious comedy set in the Italian renaissance. And although "the better part of valor is discretion," according to Falstaff, Jehnke did share a "Shakespeare In Love" moment.

"Last summer," Jehnke remembers, "the woman who played Olivia and the man who played Malvolio, in Twelfth Night, met here for the first time and fell in love. They were married this May and will be doing their honeymoon on tour with Shakespeare in the Parks this summer."

Henry IV, Part I, will premiere at the Duck Pond at MSU June 19-22; The Comedy of Errors will follow June 26-29. All performances are at 8 p.m. The troupe will be back in Bozeman Aug. 2-4 for the Sweet Pea Festival, and then will close out the season over Labor Day weekend at MSU. For more information, check out the Montana Shakespeare in the Parks Web site at www.montana.edu/shakespeare or call 994-3901.