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UW Theatre and Dance to Produce ‘The Shakespeare Project’

February 20, 2015
group of people on a stage
Actors from the London Stage performed during last fall’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.” One of the actors is an eminent artists in residence at the University of Wyoming this semester. (Courtesy Photo)

A Shakespearean mini-festival is scheduled when the University of Wyoming Department of Theatre and Dance presents “The Shakespeare Project.” Three of the Bard’s beloved comedies will be produced in rotation over six nights.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which follows the fantastical adventures and misadventures of mortals and immortals in their quest for love, runs Sunday, March 1, and Wednesday, March 4.

“Much Ado About Nothing,” a merry war of wits and exploration of honor and deceit, is Monday, March 2, and Thursday, March 5.

And “The Merchant of Venice,” Shakespeare’s unforgettable tale of mercy and justice, and generosity and greed, is scheduled Tuesday, March 3, and Friday, March 6.

All stage productions are at 7:30 p.m. on the UW Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts main stage. Tickets cost $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students; a discounted series multi-pass (one ticket to each show) is available. For tickets and information, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at

“The Shakespeare Project” is an outgrowth of student work with the 2014-15 Eminent Artists-in-Residence program and the celebrated actors from the London Stage (AFTLS), who are supported by the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment funded through the Wyoming State Legislature.

AFTLS is one of the oldest established touring companies in the world, with members hailing from such prestigious companies as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

“The eminent artist residency is a real boon for both our programs and the state at large; it offers unparalleled opportunities for performing arts students to learn from, and work with, seasoned professionals and for communities to gain access to high-quality performing arts events,” says Kathy Kirkaldie, UW Fine Arts coordinator.

The project began last November with auditions for AFTLS members and directors Roger May, Paul O’Mahony and Anna Wright. The three have been in residency at UW since mid-January to set the selected works on student performers in the AFTLS style, which features minimal props, costumes and set.

Because AFTLS' productions use only five performers, actors play multiple roles, often against type -- men play women, women play men, and sometimes actors play multiple characters within the same scene.

This clever staging showcases the talents of each unique five-member ensemble while keeping the focus where it belongs -- on Shakespeare's words, according to the AFTLS.

All AFTLS residencies have a strong educational component, and directors May, O’Mahony and Wright also have been teaching classes and leading workshops for UW students, along with educational and community groups, since the spring semester began.

As a capstone for the project, a troupe from the AFTLS will be in residence to teach and work with students for a week, then present two local performances of “Macbeth” Saturday, March 7.

“Macbeth” will be staged at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts main stage. Tickets for that production are $14 for the public, $11 for senior citizens and $7 for students. For tickets and information, call (307) 766-6666 or go online to

“The Shakespeare Project” also has been incorporated into Wyoming PBS complementary programming for the national PBS series “Shakespeare Uncovered.” In partnership with Wyoming Public Media and the UW Department of Theatre and Dance, Wyoming PBS was awarded one of 10 grants to communities across the country to support local productions of Shakespearean plays and face-to-face community events related to “Shakespeare Uncovered.”

The grant already has allowed Wyoming PBS to produce a feature for its “Wyoming Chronicle” series and to assist with promotion. It also will support the touring of all three student productions and associated educational outreach to several locations throughout the state immediately following the UW performances, Kirkaldie says.

Productions will be staged in March in the following communities: Sheridan, Thermopolis, Green River, Lyman, Burns, Wheatland, Cheyenne, Riverton, Lander and Jackson. Exact times and locations will be announced soon.

“We are thrilled to have the AFTLS artists in residence, and to have support from Wyoming PBS and ‘Shakespeare Uncovered,’” Kirkaldie says. “We hope that audiences will take full advantage of this unique opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s works in such a compelling form.”

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