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Reid Strand, who plays Saturninus in the sixth annual Shakespeare in the Park's production of 'Titus Andronicus,' makes a threat during the performance. Shakespeare in the Park opens in the Detroit Lakes City Park Friday, June 27. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

'Andronicus' reigns in DL

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There will be blood  and plenty of it — albeit of the fake variety —when the cast of Detroit Lakes’ sixth annual Shakespeare in the Park production takes the stage this Friday, June 27, for the first of five planned performances of The Bard’s ultimate revenge play, “Titus Andronicus.”

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“There will be lots and lots and lots of fake blood, but hopefully, none of it will be real,” joked the play’s director, Nikki Caulfield.

The audience may find it difficult to tell the difference, however.

“It (the fake blood) does behave disturbingly like the real thing,” says the play’s director, Nikki Caulfield, “though it’s a mixture of chocolate syrup, corn syrup and red food coloring.”

And the cleanup — which for this play is a nightly occurrence, even after the dress rehearsals — is almost as difficult as it would be for an actual blood spill.

In other words, it’s Shakespeare as directed by Quentin Tarentino.

“I think Tarentino would love this,” said Caulfield. “There’s a sword fight that begins in the third line of dialogue, and someone dies in the first five minutes.”

In fact, by play’s end, 14 of the 21 identified characters have died, most of them quite violently.

There’s one woman who loses both of her hands, not to mention her tongue, which leads to one of the play’s most heart-wrenching scenes.

“There are some moments that are quite moving,” Caulfield said. After all, “Titus Andronicus” is, at its core, a tragedy — albeit one that is “rooted in farce,” she added.

“This is a play that deals with a lot of heavy-hitting issues — corruption of power, exploitation and abuse in so many forms,” Caulfield said. “It doesn’t make light of those things, but sometimes so much bad is happening, with people dying for absolutely no reason, that it is kind of funny.

“Poor Katie Anderson must think I’m out to get her. She plays three roles, and all of them die.”

Some of the humor is a bit more overt, such as all the bad puns referencing hands, or the lack thereof.

“There is humor, but it’s pretty black humor,” Caulfield said.

There’s also plenty of angst, and a few heartbreaking moments as well.

“In one scene, you’ll be laughing so hard you cry, and the next, you’re just crying,” she said. “I’ve even caught myself tearing up a few times in rehearsals, and it’s not from laughing.”

In other words, “this isn’t a play for little kids — but I think teenagers would love it,” Caulfield added. “It’s an emotional roller coaster.”

Given the production’s public setting, this particular presentation would most likely still get a “PG-13” rating in theaters. And while there is plenty of fake blood, “no actors were harmed in the production of this show,” she said, though at least one suffered an unplanned illness outside of it.

“One of our lead actors came down with appendicitis this morning (Monday),” she said. “But that’s part of live theater.”

Despite that last-minute casting change, “this is by far the strongest cast we’ve had,” Caulfield added. “There are no newbies… some are new to Shakespeare in the Park, but all of them have stage experience.”

In fact, some of the actors in this play came to auditions with a pretty impressive list of credentials, she noted, which is undoubtedly a good thing given the often disturbing subject matter.

“Terrible things keep happening to these people,” she said. “Everyone is out to get everyone else. Even the good characters have a dark side, and the bad guys, you just love to hate them.”

There’s a sense of in justice that permeates the entire play, and “every time it seems something might start to go right for somebody, it just doesn’t.”

But for those who like a little action in their drama, this play has it in spades.

“It never stops… our fight directors, Chris Damlo and Ben Fink, did a really good job,” Caulfield said.

Though most of the characters die by play’s end, each of them meets their end in a unique way.

“It’s not the same thing over and over,” Caulfield said. “We’ve had a ridiculous amount of fun putting this together.”

Hopefully, the audience will enjoy it just as much.

Detroit Lakes’ Shakespeare in the Park will present “Titus Andronicus” this Friday through Sunday, July 27-29, as well as on July 3 and 5, at the City Park Bandshell. All performances begin at 7 p.m., except for a Sunday matinee on June 29, which get underway at 4 p.m.

There is no charge for admission, though those attending are asked to bring their own chairs and blankets, as available seating is limited.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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