'Hang out in park, watch some Shakespeare'
When the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell was renovated a few years ago, it opened up new opportunities for outdoor concerts and activities -- including live theater.
This June, the bandshell will be the setting for the first-ever Shakespeare in the Park production by the Historic Holmes Theatre. Directed by DL native Nikki Caulfield, the production will be a "play within a play," putting a modern spin on William Shakespeare's classic comedy, "The Taming of the Shrew."
Auditions begin this Thursday, May 21 at the Holmes Theatre, from 7 to 8 p.m. Additional audition sessions will be held Friday from 7 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., with final callbacks set for Monday, May 25 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Caulfield -- who was in the midst of obtaining a bachelor's degree in theater from the University of Minnesota when the bandshell was being renovated -- saw its potential as a theatrical venue even before the facelift.
But when she moved back to the community a year ago, and saw the updated facility, "I thought, 'We really have to do something here,'" Caulfield added.
This spring, she approached Detroit Lakes Community & Cultural Center events director Vicky Williams and asked whether the Historic Holmes Theatre was in need of a summer theater director.
Caulfield had originally thought of being an actress during her years at Detroit Lakes High School, where she participated regularly in theatrical productions. But during her time in college, she discovered that she preferred working behind the scenes, in directing and costume design.
Though Williams said no to Caulfield's original query, she decided "on a whim" to ask a follow-up question: "Have you ever thought about doing Shakespeare in the Park?"
Caulfield had been involved in a similar event in Duluth, Minn., while she was attending college there -- though she graduated from the U of M in the Twin Cities, she did spend a couple of years at the Duluth campus as well.
Though Williams was initially cautious about mounting a production this summer, Caulfield said it could be done with minimal expense, and plans quickly began to take shape.
Caulfield selected "Taming of the Shrew" because its light-hearted themes would be perfect for a more casual, outdoor theater setting, she noted.
And because Shakespeare's works are considered public domain, she added, the script can be tweaked as needed in order to make it more accessible to modern audiences.
"In Duluth, they wrote in a lot of local humor -- I'm going to do a little of that here as well," Caulfield said. "We're going to try to make it fun."
And because the last week or so of rehearsals will be held at the bandshell instead of inside the Holmes Theatre, the actors will have a ready-made barometer to determine whether the jokes are hitting the mark.
"When we're rehearsing in the park, we'll have an audience the whole time, which will allow us to tweak some things," Caulfield said.
Rather than being distracted by activities going on in the park, Caulfield said, she hopes the actors will be able to incorporate them into the scene as much as possible.
"I'm going to be giving them some training in improv (i.e., improvisational acting), because you just don't know what's going to happen in the park (while the play is going on)," she said.
Though this is Caulfield's directorial debut at the new bandshell, she hopes it will become an annual tradition instead of a one-time experiment.
"I would love to make this a recurring thing," she said. "The toughest thing is going to be getting it started."
With 23 roles to cast, including 12 male and nine female, Caulfield hopes the turnout for the upcoming auditions will be high.
"Anybody who has ever thought about auditioning (for a play) is more than welcome to come," she said, adding that no prior theatrical experience is necessary.
Those who would like a script to rehearse with prior to the audition are welcome to contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 218-234-5938.
Performances of "Taming of the Shrew are set for Friday and Saturday, June 26-27, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 28 at 2 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, July 2-3, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, July 5 at 2 p.m. There is no cost for admission.
"All the shows are free," Caulfield said. "You can come hang out in the park, bring a blanket, or a picnic, and watch some Shakespeare."