Free shows bring Shakespeare to life

By Winter Dorval - Staff Reporter



Spend a night in the park this summer with free performances of Shakespeare's work.

Wooden O has performed Shakespeare's works in the Seattle area since 1994.

"Wooden O started out as an independent theater organization, and merged with the Seattle Theater company in 2008," said Artistic Director George Mount.

Outdoor theater comes with challenges, one being weather.

"We deliberately schedule our season during what is usually the Seattle areas' driest time of year," said Mount.

"Fighting for the audience's attention can also be a challenge. There's dogs, airplanes, Frisbee players and difficult acoustics."

Sound amplification is used, and the script is kept dynamic and clear, so audiences can follow the action, said Mount.

"The cast is paid professional actors. Some members of the cast are also members of the professional actors union, Actor's Equity," said Mount.

Donations to support the company are welcome online, when they pass the hat, or at the information table before or after performances.

"I've always believed Shakespeare is great entertainment. You might even say complete entertainment. The stories are full of emotion, humor, danger, and even a little bawdiness," Mount said.

"There's action and adventure, romance, seriousness, and silliness. The language and the ideas are intellectually stimulating."

Audiences range between 200-500, so that the people on the outskirts can hear.

"They are not stuffy, museum pieces that you should see because they're good for you. They are actually fun, entertaining, generally easy to follow when done well, and a great way to spend a summer night in a park," said Mount.

The performances are under two hours on average, to keep the audience engaged.

"Since we perform at various locations, we require flexibility in the set, and actors movement," said Mount.

To decide on the locations of the plays, "often we have been invited by the local parks and rec or arts commissions to perform and they suggest the parks. However our first venue, Mercer Island's Luther Burbank Park, was picked because I grew up there and loved the amphitheater," Mount said.

This summer marks year 24 of these productions.

"Most of Shakespeare's plays were originally written to be performed outdoors. It's a great way to experience those larger-than-life elements of the plays. Indoors, we get the nuance, subtlety and intricacy of the plays. Outdoors we experience the grander scale and depth of the stories," said Mount.

Wooden O will perform Much Ado About Nothing on Aug. 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Des Moines Beach Park.

Another local troupe, Greenstage, will perform Richard II at Lake Burien School Memorial Park on Aug. 5 at 7 p.m., and Lake Wilderness Park on August 13 at 5 p.m.

The Comedy of Errors will be performed at Lake Burien School Memorial Park on July 29 at 7 p.m.

Des Moines Beach Park is at, 22030 Cliff Ave. S., Des Moines.

Lake Burien School Memorial Park is at 1620 SW 149th St., Burien.

Lake Wilderness is at 22500 SE 248th St., Maple Valley.

Lake Burien School Memorial Park is at 1620 SW 149th St., Burien.

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