MT Shakespeare Company Summer Productions

Bringing Classic Tales Alive in Helena

By Emmie Bristow

For many in Helena, the Montana Shakespeare Company summer productions are an annual must-see. The company was founded by artistic director Kim Delong in 1997, and is comprised of actors from across the nation. It has changed locations many times since its beginning, but recently has settled in the cozy Great Northern Amphitheater. The company runs as a non-profit arts organization, and their goal in mind, as shown in their mission statement, is “enriching and empowering individuals and community through extraordinary theatre!”

Being an English major at the University of Montana, I’ve always had a certain interest in Shakespeare. So, when I found I had the opportunity to interview one of the actors in MT Shakespeare Co., I knew I had to jump on it.

Brian Fox, a current student at Macalester College and native to Helena, has been acting with MT Shakespeare Co. for three years now and will be playing the Duke of Albany in his fifth show in the MT Shakespeare Co. production of King Lear. The first production will be on July 28th, and he is ready and excited.

“I might be more excited for this performance than any I’ve done before. King Lear was the first show I ever saw MT Shakespeare Co. do back in 2005.”

Brian Fox (in the red) and fellow actor Ryan Pfeiffer (in the purple) in last year's production of The Three Musketeers.

Brian Fox (in the red) and fellow actor Ryan Pfeiffer (in the purple) in last year’s production of The Three Musketeers. Photo taken from the Montana Shakespeare Company facebook page.

Fox has been acting for some time now, having started in Grandstreet as a child, and remembers going to a summer camp, Bard Days, and learning about Shakespeare and stage combat. It was there he decided he wanted to be part of MT Shakespeare Co., and when Delong asked him to be in the performance of Romeo and Juliet four years ago, he gladly accepted the offer.

“I was mainly excited for the sword fighting,” Fox jokes, even though according to him, stage combat rehearsals tend to be most grueling. However, he always enjoys the company of other actors and watching kids after exiting the Great Northern Carousel stop and stare at their practicing.

“It really brings into perspective how cool of an opportunity it is to be able to take part in this production.

And not only is this a good opportunity for the actors, but an essential one for audience members as well.

“Many people have a somewhat negative experience with Shakespeare in high school,” Brian states, “but what people don’t realize is to see it live just gives the play a whole other dimension and makes it so much easier to understand.”

And according to Brian, everyone should try to understand them.

“They’re simply amazing stories dealing with timeless themes of jealousy, love, hate, family, and so on.”

So if you’d like to catch a showing of King Lear to see Brian and the rest of MT Shakespeare Co., the show begins at 7:30 pm at the Great Northern Amphitheater on a Thursday, July 28th, and from then on begins on Wednesdays and lasts through Sundays until August 14th. If you’d like to catch a show by the company sooner than that, The Rivals is playing at the same time, same days of the week up until July 24th. Tickets are available online at montanashakespeare.org, or at the door. It is $20 for adults and $15 for students. High school and college students: don’t forget your student IDs!

A view from the amphitheater's stage

A view from the amphitheater’s stage. Photo taken from the Montana Shakespeare Company facebook page.

Also, for the first time ever this summer, the MT Shakespeare Co. is hosting a Shakespearean Scavenger Hunt and FUNdraiser. As it is perfectly stated on their website, “If thou dost like Shakespeare, Helena, solving riddles and having fun with friends and family on a summer’s day, Play On with us!” This hunt will take you through downtown Helena to see “Where’st William” affects our lives today. Anyone can play, and you can have a team of up to four members. Tickets for participation are $15 for adults and $10 for students, and may be purchased online at montanashakespeare.org or on the morning of the hunt. There are three hunts total, however two (on June 18th and July 16th) have already passed. So don’t miss the last one! It will be on Saturday, August 13th. Meet at the Carousel at 9:30 am to begin.

Whether you’re going to just one play, or all the plays and the scavenger hunt, make sure to support your local Shakespeareans (and maybe purchase an ice-cream cone at the Carousel while you’re at it). They would love to see you, and you will not regret it.