William Shakespeare will be celebrated this summer in a unique trifecta of his work on stage. Three theater companies have joined to create a mini-Shakespeare festival in the South Sound from June through August 2019. Beginning on June 28, Animal Fire Theatre has staged one of Shakespeare’s most outrageous comedies, The Merry Wives of Windsor at Priest Point Park. The romance As You Like It was the next Shakespearean production on June 30 with Goldfinch Productions, a new team with a long theatrical history.
The three-part summer Shakespeare season concludes in August with the magical romance The Tempest at the Port Plaza, produced by OLY ARTS founder Ned Hayes, in conjunction with Olympia Harbor Days.
Act I: As You Like It
Lacey can now boast its own theatrical troupe.
Artistic director Kevin McManus explained, prior to As You Like It, “Seven of my closest friends and I gathered together to form a theater company. We got ourselves a little 501(c)(3) license and are heading toward a three-production, inaugural season.”
That fledgling company is Goldfinch Productions. “It’s exciting and a bit intimidating,” McManus says, “but we’re equipped to handle it.”
Audiences may recognize McManus from roles in such shows as Communicating Doors at Olympia Little Theatre, but he’s also made his mark as a director. He’ll helm Goldfinch’s first show, Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It, this summer. It’ll debut at Yelm Prairie Days Festival, then grace Olympia’s LBA and Sunrise parks in July.
As You Like It is the story of Celia and Rosalind, nobles born to fraternal dukes but hiding in the forest of Arden. When Rosalind’s crush, Orlando, escapes to the woods, Rosalind commences flirting with him — a seduction complicated by her disguise as a boy.
McManus says his directorial focus will be “on the difference between the people of court and the people of the country. … In our time, it’s a conversation of great interest.” His rendition stars Amanda Kemp as Rosalind, Laura Miller as Celia and Jalen Penn as Orlando. Jacques is played by Andrea Weston-Smart, the dukes by Miro Bouchakian and Ed Thorpe.
Thorpe, a Goldfinch board member, says the play has “passionate characters from all walks of life, [with] women as the central focus. We believe audiences will respond to shows that are partly a reflection of themselves in dynamic situations.”
McManus praises his cast and crew. “They deserve to be touted and shouted.”
Goldfinch is working on future productions already. McManus says, “[We will be] bringing a production crew together for Molière’s The Misanthrope. Our hope is to have it ready for the public by September.”
Act II: The Merry Wives of Windsor
For each of the last 10 summers, Animal Fire Theatre has presented free Shakespeare in Olympia parks.
This summer, director Rachel Fitzgerald offers The Merry Wives of Windsor, in which masterful comic creation Sir John Falstaff does his permadrunk best to play homewrecker. After harassing Mistresses Ford and Page (Shannon Agostinelli and Paige Doyle, respectively), Falstaff becomes the target of a series of practical jokes.
This larger-than-life figure from English history, aka “the most noted highwayman,” was affectionately described by Shakespeare’s Henry IV as “fat-witted with drinking of old sack, and unbuttoning thee after supper, and sleeping upon benches after noon.” In this production, he’s portrayed by Standing Room Only stalwart Dave Champagne. Costarring as the merry wives’ husbands are Scott Douglas and Drew Doyle.
Most present-day commentators dismiss this late 16th-century effort as slapdash, but director Fitzgerald has a plan. “It is about the power struggle between the sexes,” she says, “and I think it fits in really well with the #MeToo movement, because the women are in control.”
Fitzgerald says a strong cast helped her give the play focus. “We have a lot of very talented women down here,” she continues. “I was so incredibly lucky when it came to the people who showed up for auditions that anybody who might have concerns about eh play, I would just say, ‘Come see it,’ because the people are spectacular.”
Act III: The Tempest
“I’ve wanted to create a production of The Tempest at the Port Plaza for 15 years,” says Ned Hayes, local theatre impresario and founder of OLY ARTS.
Hayes says the tall tower beside Budd Bay was his inspiration to bring Shakespeare’s island play to this scene. “I found the perfect director,” he says. “And the Puget Sound called to me.”
That director was Kate Ayers, whose efforts for Olympia Family Theater include The Monster Under the Bed and world premiere of Cinder Edna. Her take on the Bard’s maritime classic will, in its closing weekend, coincide with Olympia Harbor Days, allowing it to be performed against vintage tugboats and the brig Lady Washington.
Ayers sees indentured spirit Ariel (Silva Goetz) as the show’s central character. “During the time [Shakespeare] was writing,” Ayers says, “spirits, fairies — They were both considered somewhat real.”
That attitude suggested an inscrutable, supernatural setting for the play. “When twilight happens,” Ayers explains, “if you’re walking somewhere and you sense a presence … it’s that moment.”
Thus, the play’s unnamed, Mediterranean island becomes a surreal locale: less Illyria, more Lost. It’s about shipwrecked sailors, but the titular tumult doesn’t end where the coastline begins.
That’s because the island’s exotic denizens labor under the mystical command of exiled Milanese duke Prospero, played by Brian Tyrrell (Equivocation), professor emeritus of Centralia College. Suffering most, perhaps, is Caliban (Drew Doyle), reassessed in the 20th century as a victim of colonial oppression.
“[This summer offers] three very different aspects of Shakespeare,” says Ned Hayes. “You get to have a full spectrum on stage, from a very silly story, The Merry Wives of Windsor, to the pastoral As You Like It, and then you have this kind of proto-romance, magical story that, to me, has some echoes of tragedy in it, because it is about the death of one way of living.”
As You Like It
7 p.m. LBA Park, July 5-7;
7 p.m. Sunrise Park, July 11-14
LBA Park 3333 Morse-Merryman, Olympia;
Sunrise Park, 505 Bing, Olympia
Free (donations encouraged)
The Merry Wives of Winter
7 p.m. Fridays – Sundays, June 28 – July 21
Lower field, Priest Point Park,
2600 East Bay Dr. NE, Olympia
8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14;
8 p.m. Thursdays – Saturdays, Aug. 15-31 (except Aug. 24)
701 Columbia St. NW, Olympia