Montana State University

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks group sets spring tour of elementary schools

February 12, 2009


Tonya Andrews, left, an actor with Montana Shakes!, elicits a roar from aspiring actor Leif Hanen-Bauer at Cottonwood School near Bozeman during a performance of "All the West's a Stage." Montana Shakes! is the Montana Shakespeare in the Parks program for elementary school children that will be touring through Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho this spring. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Montana Shakes!, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks' troupe for elementary schools, will begin its second year this spring with an eight-week tour throughout the Northern Rockies.

Beginning in March, Montana Shakes! will travel 8,000 miles to reach 4,000 students in more than 40 schools located in Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho performing the comic "All the West's a Stage." The troupe's visit also includes workshops presented by an experienced team of professional actor-educators.

Montana Shakes! is a program designed for younger students, presented in the tradition of traveling theater companies. The day-long presentation includes a 35-40 minute play featuring scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that have been adapted to be interactive and appeal to young audiences. The visit also includes workshops in stage combat, stage design and a course in "Green Eggs and Hamlet."

Montana Shakes! organizers say last year's pilot project met with such enthusiastic response that the program was doubled to eight weeks and four states.

"The program is specifically designed to expose the youngest students to their first "taste" of Shakespeare in a fun, non-threatening environment," said Joel Jahnke, artistic director of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Montana Shakespeare in the Schools (for older students) and Montana Shakes!, all professional theater troupes based at Montana State University.

Jahnke said the age level traditionally hasn't been exposed to much of Shakespeare's work.

"I feel it is very important to introduce students to Shakespeare at an early age so they learn not to be intimidated by it," Jahnke said. "Some of our best audience members on our summer tour are children. They don't worry about the density of the language or complicated plot twists - they simple enjoy."

Anyone interested in more information or in booking a performance should contact Kathy Jahnke at (406) 994-1220.

Kathy Jahnke, (406)-994-1220, kjahnke@montana.edu