Preview: Shakespeare In The Parks Just In Time For The Heat

Shakespeare In The Parks in Seattle

Hark! The Bard goes al fresco.  

This summer marks the 25th Anniversary for Wooden O’s outdoor productions in the parks. And now, Seattle Shakespeare Company performs King Lear, one of The Bard’s greatest tragedies, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, a comedy romp.   Both productions are performed in park venues throughout King and Pierce Counties. And best of all, they are free—no tickets needed.  

George Mount, Artistic Director of Seattle Shakespeare Company and founder of Wooden O, directs King Lear, featuring Seattle favorite David Pichette in the title role, and another favorite, R. Hamilton Wright, will play the Earl of Gloucester, Vanessa Miller, Jonelle Jordan, and Nabilah S. Ahmed will portray Lear’s daughters Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia.

An aging monarch, Lear’s last act could destroy his kingdom. After ruling for many years, he decides to divide his lands and wealth between his daughters.  In order to help decide who will inherit his great wealth, he sets up a game where each of his three daughters gets to tell daddy how much she loves him, But he underestimates their love and loyalty,  

The results of the game are disastrous. King Lear shuns the one daughter who actually does loves him, Cordelia, because she refuses to express in words how much she adores her dad. She is exiled and flees to France. Then he gives all his wealth to his two daughters, Regan and Goneril, who only pretend to love him. The Fool (There’s usually a fool in the Bard’s works, and he’s often very wise.) lets King Lear know what a huge mistake it was to give up his land. Lear finds everything that defined him as a king ripped from his hands. Only after wandering purposeless and tossed about in a storm of pain and madness, the once mighty ruler begins to discover his own humanity.  

The Earl of Gloucester, powerful lord in Lear’s realm, has a similar problem, in that he also has issues realizing which one of his children is honorable and which one is a scheming, power-hungry liar. Gloucester is far from perfect. He’s a womanizer and had a son, Edmund, out of wedlock. But even though Edmund is considered an illegitimate child, Gloucester always treated him equally to his legitimate son Edgar.

King Lear is one of most sought-out roles in Shakespeare’s cannon, right up there with Hamlet. Over four centuries, the greatest actors have clamored to play Lear. Most recently, a woman took over the role. Glenda Jackson garnered raves with her London turn as Lear at The Old Vic, and will be coming to Broadway in March 2019 to repeat her performance.   

Set in London during the swinging 1960s Corey McDaniel helms The Merry Wives of Windsor. The production features Charles Leggett playing Falstaff, Eleanor Moseley as Mistress Page, Annie Lareau as Mistress Ford, Reginald Jackson as Master Ford, and Vince Brady as Master Page. 

You could call Merry Wives a predecessor to the Me-Too Movement. The fat, jolly but devious roué, the knight, John Falstaff, arrives in Windsor. Shakespeare aficionados know him from threeplays: 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and The Merry Wives, He is a pal to Prince Hal, who becomes Henry V. 

But in Merry Wives, Falstaff is very short on money, but hopes to score a pretty penny by seducing two of the town’s wealthy wives, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford. But it’s the women who know how to play the game better. They soon orchestrate a scheme to scam the scammer. It’s a warm-hearted and antic romp. Falstaff is generally thought to be Shakespeare’s greatest comic character, and Charles Leggett should be delightful and hilarious in the role.  

About Wooden O 

It all started 25 summers ago. 

“A small, but hearty troupe of players,” Mount recalls, “bundled into the back of a green pick-up truck (The Big O) and lumbered from the Mercer Island Community Center down to Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre and barnstormed in for three performances of Much Ado About Nothing. Thus Wooden O began.” 

Mount believed then as he does now–that the great works of Shakespeare provide genuine, popular entertainment to audiences. “They offer a holistic form of entertainment, entertaining the head, the heart, the guts (and…even some anatomy a little lower than that). What better format for popular and populist entertainment than free performances, in our public parks, for any and all to enjoy?” 

So with a team of actors, designers and stage managers pulled from Mount’s circle of high school and college theatre friends, and with new friends met along the way, they began. Their purpose?  Mount cites Feste song in Twelfth Night:  “Strive to please you every day.” 

Over the years, the true nature of Wooden O emerged. The first Wooden O Company created its own community of players, who shared a unified goal of storytelling; Live performance is also the act of forming a community bond between the actors and the audience, That idea celebrates over 400 years of common human experience. 

For Mount, “Wooden O has also created something bigger — a stronger, more durable connection to our shared humanity. For we are all part of the same body, bound together by our strengths, our frailties and our need for community.” 

The Casts 

The full cast for King Lear includes Nabilah S. Ahmed (Cordelia), Mike Dooly (Albany), Jennifer Ewing (Oswald), Meme Garcia (Fool), Anais Gralpois (Ensemble), Ivan Guillermo (Burgundy), Jonelle Jordan (Reagan), Jason Marr (Cornwall), Vanessa Miller (Goneril), Conner Neddersen (Edgar), Adrian Alonzo Padilla (France), Arjun Pande (Edmund), David Pichette (King Lear), Alyson Scadron Branner (Kent), R. Hamilton Wright (Gloucester).

The Merry Wives of Windsorfull cast includes Megan Ahiers (Host of the Garter Inn), Vince Brady (Master Page), Anu Brown (Nym/ensemble), Susanna Burney (Shallow), Marianna de Fazio (Evan Hughs), Brandon Felker (Dr. Caius), Reginald Jackson (Master Ford), Annie Lareau (Mistress Ford), Charles Leggett (Falstaff), Lamar Lewis (Slender), Imogen Love (Mistress Quickly), Sienna Mendez (Pistol/ensembles), Eleanor Moseley (Mistress Page), Stephanie Neuerburg (Anne Page), Chad Sommerville (Fenton), Mariah Lee Squires (Simple/Robin/ensemble).

The  Production Team 

George Mount directs King Lear, while Corey McDaniel directs The Merry Wives of Windsor, Set designs for both productions will be by Craig B. Wollam. Costumes for King Lear will be by Jocelyne Fowler and Margaret Toomey will design costumes for The Merry Wives of Windsor. Evan Mosher and Robertson Witmer will design sound for King Lear and Kyle Thompson will design sound for The Merry Wives of Windsor.
 

NOTE: Wooden O performs in the King and Pierce County parks through August 12, 2018. See the schedule below for specific dates and related venues. No tickets needed. Seating in the parks is on a first-come, first-seated basis. But donations after the performance will be welcomed. SSC welcomes picnics, but not alcohol and no smoking. Bring mosquito spray, hydration, and sun screen. Best to come 40-40 minutes early and see the pre-show, when the stage elements are being set up. You can bring you pets as long as they’re not barkers. Chairs must be no higher than 24 inches. If so, you’ll have to sit in the back. That way the folks picnicking on blankets will be able to see the performance.  

Schedule for King Lear 

July 12, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Issaquah Community Center Open Space
July 14, 2018 at 2:00 PM - Volunteer Park
July 15, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 19, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 21, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Klahanie Park
July 22, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 25, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Lynndale Park Amphitheater
July 26, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Lynndale Park Amphitheater
July 27, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 28, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 29, 2018 at 6:00 PM - Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion
August 02, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 03, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 04, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 05, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 10, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 11, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 12, 2018 at 2:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre 

Schedule for The Merry Wives of Windsor 

July 12, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 13, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 14, 2018 at 2:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 15, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Volunteer Park
July 18, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Lynndale Park Amphitheater
July 19, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Lynndale Park Amphitheater
July 20, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 21, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 22, 2018 at 3:00 PM - Edmonds City Park
July 25, 2018 at 6:30 PM - Richmond Beach Community Park
July 26, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
July 27, 2018 at 7:00 PM – Angle Lake Park
July 28, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Klahanie Park
July 29, 2018 at 2:00 PM - Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion
August 02, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Issaquah Community Center Open Space
August 03, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Columbia Park
August 4, 2018 at 7:00 PM – Steel Lake Park
August 05, 2018 at 5:00 PM - Des Moines Beach Park
August 09, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
August 10, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Wright Park
August 11, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Ashwood Playfield
August 12, 2018 at 7:00 PM - Luther Burbank Park Amphitheatre
 

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About Starla Smith

Starla Smith is a career journalist, writing features for such publications as The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Daily News, The Des Moines Register, Vibe and a prize-winning Gannett Newspaper. She helped launch Theater Week Magazine and eventually became its publisher. As a regular contributor to Playbill, her interviews and photos were featured in Playbill and Playbill-on-line. Smith was featured in the New York Times "Style" section for her "Word Portraits," specialized tributes, speeches, and presentation profiles. And she covered theater and features for City Search, Digital City, and the Tena Duberry WOW! Radio show. She previously served as astrology guru for Out Magazine, and she hastens to assure her readers that "Starla" is indeed her real name.

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