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Chicago Shakespeare announces rite of summer “in the parks”

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks has announced its summer 2017 circuit. (Photo: Julie Stanton)

True, it hasn’t acquired the crowd status of Lollapalooza, but it is free, it will now be staged in 19 different parks throughout Chicago, and as it enters its fifth season, it has earned the right to call itself one of the city’s “rites of summer.”

In brief (and performances are just 75 action-packed minutes), the Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks project – a collaborative effort of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and Boeing – is revving up to roll. And this year, with its production of “Twelfth Night,” it can boast that it is the largest citywide event of the yearlong Shakespeare 400 Chicago celebrations.

Adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly (an award-winning documentary filmmaker as well as a director), this music-infused production “for all ages” (sponsored by BMO Harris) will feature 25 performances of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy in 19 neighborhood parks between July 14 and Aug. 14.

As part of Chicago Park District’s summer-long Night Out in the Parks initiative, the 2016 Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour of “Twelfth Night” will kick off at the east end of Navy Pier on Thursday, July 14 and Friday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m.

Parks scheduled to be visited, rain or shine, include: Sunday, July 17 at Steelworkers Park; Tuesday, July 19 and Wednesday, July 20 at Ridge Park; Thursday, July 21 at Tuley Park; Friday, July 22 and Saturday, July 23 at Loyola Park; Sunday, July 24 at Garfield Park Conservatory; Wednesday, July 27 at Gage Park; Thursday, July 28 at Kelvyn Park; Friday, July 29 at Washington Park; Saturday, July 30 and Sunday, July 31 at Frank J. Wilson Park; Wednesday, August 3 at Marquette Park; Thursday, August 4 at Piotrowski Park; Friday, August 5 at Dvorak Park; Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7 at Welles Park; Tuesday, August 9 at Columbus Park ; Wednesday, August 10 at Hamilton Park; Thursday, August 11 and Friday, August 12 at Humboldt Park; Saturday, August 13 at Eckhart Park; and Sunday, August 14 at Ping Tom Memorial Park. Performances Tuesday through Saturday begin at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday performances begin at 4:00 p.m. (The Garfield Park Conservatory performance on July 24 will begin at 3:00 p.m.).

At the center of Shakespeare’s story is Viola, a young girl separated from her twin brother, Sebastian, in a shipwreck. She adopts a male disguise and enters into the service of Duke Orsino—only to find herself in the middle of a triangle of unrequited love. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities abound, as do the sounds of piano, guitar, ukulele, cajon and banjolele, in synch with the play’s memorable line, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks will present “Twelfth Night” in 19 parks citywide during the summer of 2016. (Photo: Michael Litchfield)
Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks will present “Twelfth Night” in 19 parks citywide during the summer of 2016. (Photo: Michael Litchfield)

The cast includes: Ronald Conner (Sir Toby Belch), Dominic Conti (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Donovan Diaz (Fabian), Lydia Berger Gray (Maria), Juan Villa (Antonio/Captain), Nik Kmiecik (Curio/Priest), Garrett Lutz (Valentine), Will Mobley (Feste), Neal Moeller (Orsino), Andrea San Miguel (Viola), Nate Santana (Sebastian) and Jonathan Weir (Malvolio). The creative team includes scenic designer Scott Davis (who also created the sets for the epic “Tug of War,” now on stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s mainstage), costume designer Rachel Healy, sound designer/composer Ethan Deppe, wig and make-up designer Melissa Veal and fight choreographer Matt Hawkins.

Partnering with the Chicago Park District, CST is again offering ASL-interpreted performances at six of the 19 Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks tour stops. Sign-interpreting the performances are Elizabeth Bartlow Breslin and Will Lee. For the first time this year, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks also will offer an Audio-described performance for audience members who are blind or have low vision, in which a describer provides a description of visual elements of the production transmitted through headphones.

Here’s the calendar for access Shakespeare performances:

ASL Duo-interpreted Performances: Saturday, July 23, 6:30 p.m. – Loyola Park (1230 W. Greenleaf Ave.); Wednesday, July 27, 6:30 p.m. – Gage Park (2411 W. 55th St.); Friday, July 29, 6:30 p.m. – Washington Park (5531 S. Russell Dr.); Sunday, August 7, 4:00 p.m. – Welles Park (2333 W. Sunnyside Ave.); and Friday, August 12, 6:30 p.m. – Humboldt Park (1301 N. Sacramento Ave.).

Audio-described and ASL Duo-interpreted Performance: Sunday, August 14, 4:00 p.m. – Ping Tom Memorial Park (1700 S. Wentworth Ave.)

For more information on Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, visit www.chicagoshakes.com/parks.