B y J a n a R i v e r a
IT'S TIME AGAIN for the Tucson Parks and Recreation Community Theatre to entertain us with its annual Shakespeare in the Park presentation. Now if the mere mention of Shakespeare conjures up dense, dark images of Ophelia bereft of joy and hope and eventually her mind, chasing after an obsessed young man in tights with an abnormal attachment to his mother, fear not.
Remember, before Shakespeare became disillusioned with life and started writing those grim Elizabethan tragedies that make you want to sip from Hamlet's poisoned cup, he was delighting London audiences with bright, brilliant comedies.
Parks and Recreation celebrates 10 years of Shakespeare in the Park productions with his enchanting comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by artistic director, James Gooden.
In this play, supposedly under orders from the queen, Shakespeare revives his popular character, Sir John Falstaff, after killing him off in one of the Henry plays (Henry V, I think).
The Falstaff in Merry Wives is written in the context of a farce, Gooden says, and he's in the process of wooing two of the Windsor wives. They feign interest only to put the lout in his place and teach him thing or two.
"But in typical Falstaff fashion," says Gooden, "he refuses to be made a fool of."
The "enormous cast of thousands" (actually about 35) in Merry Wives is made up of local actors ranging from age 8 to 80.
"I search for opportunities to mix age groups in the same production as much as I possibly can," Gooden says. "There's a lot of opportunity to learn from each other cross-generationally, as well as thickening the layers of the experience for the audience.
"I had an opportunity with Merry Wives, because it's summer, to work with teenagers and very young kids."
Although all cast members are local amateur actors, Gooden says many have worked professionally.
"Doing Shakespeare gives you an opportunity to include quality performers who will work without pay because the material is so good," he says.
Tucson Parks and Recreation has presented a broad range of Shakespeare's works over the years, including Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Gooden thinks this production of Merry Wives will prove to be accessible to audiences of all ages, as a streamlined version of one of Shakespeare's lighter works.
The best thing about Shakespeare in the Park: It's free! Bring your picnic dinner and a lawn chair to Reid Park DeMeester Outdoor Performing Center, Broadway and Country Club Road, at 8 p.m. June 28 through July 2.
Cutline: Bard watching: Bring a blanket and identify the characters in the Community Theatre production of Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Photo by Jim Velde
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