HELENA — Actors from the traveling troupe, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, were busy setting up their stage in Anchor Park for Monday and Tuesday evening’s performances.
“It’s an opportunity for everybody – families, neighbors, children, grandparents, folks that you might not know – to come out, to collectively enjoy live performance in your backyard, in the midst of summer in Montana, I think is a really special experience,” says, Executive Artistic Director, Kevin Asselin.
Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is celebrating their 51st anniversary this year. They are traveling to five different states including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, and North Dakota, the troupe will host over 70 shows.
Beginning in June and ending in September, the two plays they are featuring this summer include The Three Musketeers and Measure for Measure.
One of the main focuses of this traveling theatre group is to bring the art of the stage to communities that may lack easy access to professional theatre. They make a point to bring the art form to rural towns such as Miles City, Montana, and Beach, North Dakota.
Avery Johnson, an actor with the group just recently graduated after studying theatre in Virginia. In fact, he joined the troupe just days after graduating. Johnson says that bringing theatre to rural areas is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of his job. For example, he recounted his experience in Red Lodge witnessing a 5-year-old whose first experience with live theatre was with their troupe.
“She was just shocked, like, in like that awe of, like, seeing live performance for the first time. It’s something that I remember having. And like, just the ability to be able to inspire people through, you know, just a story. It’s so cool,” says Johnson.
Asselin says that what they do is made possible by the communities the troupe visits.
“You know, we’ve been around for I think over 51 years now b/c of the commitment from our communities. We like to say that the organization truly is owned by all of our audience members, all of our community members who have spent decades supporting what we do,” says Asselin.
The troupe will provide free entertainment in Anchor Park on Monday and Tuesday evenings starting at 6 PM. But you might want to get there early for the best seat, after all, "Haste still pays haste, and leisure answers leisure.”