Culture Travel Tuesday
Cultural Event: Outdoor Theatre with Lakeside Shakespeare
By Jessica Voigts
A warm summer evening, hawks gliding by above the trees, lawn chairs and blankets, wine and munchies, good friends, music, and Much Ado. It is the best of outdoor summer theatre, and it happens every year in Frankfort, Michigan, a small artsy town located on the Sunset Coast of Lake Michigan.
This summer marked the 9th anniversary of Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre — and it’s been 9 extraordinary years of providing free outdoor performances of Shakespeare and arts education to thousands of people from Michigan and beyond. Founded in 2003 by Artistic Director Elizabeth Laidlaw, Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre is a Chicago-based company that only performs outdoors, in the summer, in Frankfort. The whole company troops up along Lake Michigan from Chicago and settles into Frankfort for a few weeks each summer.
The venue? The Old Ice Rink – a large, flat area amidst the hills and dunes near Lake Michigan, hidden in the middle of the woods. The stage is built into the hillside, and provides a flexible backdrop for Hamlet’s descent into madness, and Beatrice’s eavesdropping about the love of Benedick. You can imagine the hockey ghosts amidst the current ghosts of Ophelia and King Hamlet, alongside the laughter of the (very much alive) audience.
The company? Excellent actors from Chicago, active in Steppenwolf, Strawdog, Seanachai, and many other regional and national theatres, movies, and tv. The ensemble comes back year after year, so we see them shine in different parts, each year.
The plays? Of course, Shakespeare. Each year, LST performs one comedy and one drama over the course of two weeks. This year, it was Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. Before we head up north for the season (and for our daughter to participate in the yearly arts education program that LST puts on), we read the plays, watch one or more movie productions, discuss lines and famous quotes, and prepare for great theatre among friends.
And indeed, it IS excellent theatre. Part of it is being outside (I love outdoor Shakespeare, and have seen it in London, Minneapolis, Seattle, East Lansing – anywhere I can find it). Part of it is meeting old and new friends – among the actors, community, and parents of fellow students in the Lakeside Shakespeare Summer camp.
The sense of community is facilitated by Amy Daniels Moehle, who worked with local businesses this year for sponsorship, raffles, and even a special LST ice cream flavor (Crunch Ado About Nuttings!) from Hill Top Soda Shoppe.
But most of it is the genius productions, creatively staged, with memorable performances by the actors. From Noah Simon’s hilarious Dogberry (Much Ado) to Shane Kenyon’s brilliant Hamlet; from Brittany Burch’s haunting Ophelia to Elizabeth Laidlaw and Scott Cummins’ well-matched Beatrice and Benedick, the actors erase all my previous favorites with their performances. Directors Scott Cummins and Christy Arington (also Educational Director for LST) find new ways of producing these old, familiar plays.
And the actors love being there. Talented company actor (and favorite summer camp faculty member) Danny Taylor notes, “I love Lakeside because it is a company dedicated to bringing Shakespeare and creative theatrical performance to Benzie County, Michigan. Lakeside has amazing potential in a community like Frankfurt where the support and love of ‘what we do’ seems to stretch and grow each season. I love the community as much as I love performing the shows!”
Follow Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre on Facebook and head to northwest Michigan next summer!
Dr. Jessie Voigts, of Wandering Educators, is a regular contributor to A Traveler’s Library, bringing us cultural inspirations for travel. You can find all Jessie’s articles at A Traveler’s Library by typing her name into the search box at the top of the right hand column. Be sure to check out her revised bio on the contributor’s page to learn about her newest activities. Check out her wonderful website at Wandering Educators for travel info helpful to everyone.
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