Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

Shakespeare returns to local communities

By Andrew Scalf Jun 7, 2024
Poster provided by Hoosier Shakespeare Festival.

The Hoosier Shakespeare Festival opens for its 2024 summer season on June 8 with “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  

“​​Between name recognition, accessibility, and the opportunity to engage educationally in our community, those plays just seem to be a good fit,” Tracy Manning, HSF’s executive director, said.

Each summer, HSF performs two Shakespeare plays, one tragedy and one comedy. The company holds auditions in the spring to cast local and regional actors.

Manning hires directors who have previous experience with Shakespeare’s works. For this season, Craig Ester is directing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and Jessica Barron is directing “Romeo and Juliet.” 

“The challenge that the artists are taking on is tremendous. Whenever I tell anyone that the actors are showing up, to rehearse, to full length plays to full-length Shakespeare plays for two weeks and perform for just an incredible undertaking, not for the faint-hearted,” Barron said. 

In late May, actors move into temporary housing, this year in Upland, to begin all-company rehearsals. The actors agree to have their lines memorized before they arrive in Grant County.

The company rehearses both shows for two weeks before opening. 

“The major challenge is that Shakespeare presents us with a text that is unrelentingly athletic, and builds as a large comedic crescendo,” Ester said. 

Both directors are doing their own spin on the shows. 

“(‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’) is kind of like punk rock meets like the church,” actor Ashley Bowen said. “Romeo and Juliet is a little bit more Elizabethan, like that traditional Shakespeare as far as like costumes and stuff.”

This is Bowen’s first time performing in two Shakespeare shows back-to-back.

 “It’s really hard because some of the lines start off the same way. And then, like, when I’m about to say it, I’m like, ‘Oh, no, that’s like a “Midsummer” line, but I’m in “Romeo and Juliet”’ and vice versa,” she said.

Learning two shows at once requires talent, but Manning said the actors bring even more to the productions. 

“(The company is) coming from a really … artistic, creative, inspirational, sort of leaning, (that) is informed and driven by good scholarship and good, good awareness and study,” Manning said. 

HSF’s productions provide opportunities for local communities to gather and enjoy live, classic theatre.

Manning said that since COVID, communities need to carve out spaces to engage with neighbors. By experiencing these plays in community, people can enjoy the world together. 

“Audiences should know that we are in the ministry of joy. It is our intention to provide our communities with accessible productions that are not just educational, but also genuine fun,” Ester said, “Both shows are going to offer audiences a chance to see, not just an amazing show but to hear great music, and laugh, and fall in love together under the stars.”

Shows run from June 8-28, with pre-show music beginning at 7 p.m. and performances at 7:30 p.m. HSF posts details about the cast and performances on its social media accounts and website,

This year’s HSF season has been paid for, in part, by the Ball State University Community Engagement in the Arts Grant 2023.  

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