Southern Shakespeare Company to host Shakespeare in the Park festival

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Apr. 26—TALLAHASSEE- Since 2015 the Southern Shakespeare Company in Tallahassee has been putting on Shakespeare in the Park, a festival in beautiful Cascades Park involving food trucks and performances of Shakespeare's works.

Though the Southern Shakespeare Company has been around since the 1990s, the newest iteration has been around since 2015, inspired to come back by the beautiful amphitheater in Cascades Park. Their first performance was of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and since then they have put on a variety of different Shakespearean works.

"I think it's an event that has real staying power and has become a Tallahassee tradition," said the company's communications director Kelby Siddons. "Too often Shakespeare is seen as old and dusty and just required reading, but he was never meant to be reading. He is meant to be experienced on the stage. So, we want to enliven Shakespeare himself and his works, but we also just want to enliven the community and have everyone understand that these works belong to them."

This year's performance will feature "The Winter's Tale," a lesser known play from Shakespeare's extensive catalogue. The play was chosen by this year's guest director, Shanara Gabrielle, a critically acclaimed director who is currently working with the Alliance Theater in Washington, DC.

"For the Southern Shakespeare Festival this year, we did a national search inviting directors from all across the country to pitch the Shakespeare play about which they are most passionate," said artistic director James Alexander Bond. "Shanara Gabrielle, the new artistic director of the Alliance Theatre in DC, made a stellar case for 'The Winter's Tale,' which, though a lesser-known work of Shakespeare, is full of strong female characters, intrigue, and redemption. Listening to her speak about how she, as a mother, connected with this play, we knew she would create something truly special."

"'The Winter's Tale' offers us all that we hope for in the theatre — comedy and tragedy, love and jealousy, joy and fear ... time travel, music, and dance," said Gabrielle about the play. "The play reminds us of the beauty of forgiveness and the power of grace. I can't wait to join Southern Shakespeare next season to lead this exciting and fresh production, and to share this story of justice and joy in one of Shakespeare's most magical plays."

This year's festival will be held from May 9 to May 12 with the performance beginning at 7:30 p.m. each night. On May 11-12 the Bardlings, the Southern Shakespeare Company's junior acting company, will perform a one-hour version of "The Tempest" beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The Southern Shakespeare Company is more than this once a year festival, however. They are a non-profit theater company actively working in the school system helping to cultivate appreciation and excitement for Shakespeare as well as educate students on the theatrical arts, even traveling up to Thomas County for lectures and workshops.

For them engaging with Shakespeare can bring about community. It is thought that Shakespeare's first play was one of the three parts of King Henry the VI, which he began writing between 1589 and 1591. His works date back 435 years and so, for the Southern Shakespeare Company, when you experience one of William Shakespeare's plays you're not only connecting with those around you, but also with those who experienced the play before you.