The magic of Shakespeare is coming to Manchester, Vermont this August! Shakespeare in the Woods is an unconventional outdoor theater festival that combines the classical texts of Shakespeare with a modern perspective and staging. Upcoming shows this summer include Much Ado About Nothing, Romeo and Juliet, and The Taming of the Shrew.
At the core of Shakespeare in the Woods’ mission statement is the belief that theater should be accessible for everyone, regardless of one’s socioeconomic or geographical standing. The project seeks to accomplish this by bringing high-quality productions to areas that aren’t generally served. Subsequently, the festival will be held in the heart of southern Vermont, as a way to not only give back to founder Katharine Maness’ home state, but to also add to the local cultural scene and to explore the intersection of art and nature by bring an environmental consciousness to theater.
Other objectives for the project are to analyze the themes of these plays through the perspective of our current social lens; to examine how we as a western society do and do not listen to women’s voices; and to create a dialogue for discussion, as the themes of these plays are a goldmine for conversations about today’s critical issues. The works of Shakespeare hold a never-ending wealth of strong female characters, and have become very integrated into our society, allowing for gender lines to become blurred across the different plays—making Shakespeare the perfect medium to bring the goals of this project to life. This is exemplified in the choice of production as well as artistic decision: Much Ado About Nothing will be an all-female identifying staging, Romeo and Juliet will be centered around two young women discovering their queerness, and The Taming of the Shrew will take on some of the more opposing themes.
Long term goals for the festival are to hopefully establish itself as an annual event in Vermont, and to extend the season as well. Even farther down the line, the dream is to buy land and build an amphitheater in a wooded space for theater outdoor productions, so that Shakespeare in the Woods will have an official home year round.
Looking to get involved? Shakespeare in the Woods will also be hosting workshops for local students, allowing them to build connections to the cast and crew and to gain an understanding of and appreciation for professional theater. Additionally, there will be plentiful opportunities for community members to get involved as well, including set building, ushering, and even acting as extras in crowd scenes. Shakespeare in the Woods is also already halfway to its fundraising goal of $50,000, but donations and community support will always be gratefully accepted, as every little bit helps. More information is available online at their website.
Meet two of Shakespeare in the Woods’ actors, Joe Staton and Paula Sim, here!
Special thanks to Katharine Maness of Shakespeare in the Woods for her contribution to this blog post, and to Gaby Brabazon for her terrific artwork.