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"The Merry Wives of Windsor" has Alice Ford (Maggie Olson), Robin (Alycia Windingland) and Meg Page (Joy Sunram) sneaking Falstaff (Tanner Yokom) out of the house in a laundry basket filled with dirty underwear. Shakespeare in the Park finishes this year's run on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with free shows starting at 7 p.m. each night, at the bandshell in Detroit Lakes City Park. (Brian Basham/Tribune)

Shakespeare's Merry Wives

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Shakespeare's Merry Wives
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It may have been written over 400 years ago, but the wit of William Shakespeare's comedy "The Merry Wives of Windsor" still translates well to modern audiences.

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In fact, according to Shakespeare in the Park director Nikki Caulfield, cast members frequently had to stop rehearsals because they "cracked themselves up" during the weeks leading up to Friday's premiere at the Detroit Lakes City Park.

"It was fun to watch them discover these pieces (of old-fashioned humor)," Caulfield said. "It's a little bawdy, but it's fun."

"The Merry Wives" is one of Shakespeare's most light-hearted comedies, which is what prompted Caulfield to consider the play for this year's production.

"There are no underlying tones to this one," she said. "At its darkest point, it's charming, and at its brightest point, I almost fell off the bench laughing (during rehearsals)."

The production, which winds down this weekend with three final performances, features a cast of 21 actors, ranging in age from 12 to 71.

"We've been rehearsing since May 18," Caulfield said. "It's always tricky in the summer, with people's jobs and all the things they like to do, but we try to work around that as much as possible."

This is the second year for Shakespeare in the Park, which is hosted by the Historic Holmes Theatre.

New this year is a pre-show performance of a vignette from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

The "Midsummer" vignette is directed by Christopher Damlo, a DL native and current theater major at Concordia College in Moorhead.

As it was last year, the biggest challenge faced by the Shakespeare in the Park cast is the fact that it is staged outdoors, without any microphones.

"It's challenging," Caulfield admitted. "They compete (to be heard) with cars, motorcycles, the wind -- we even had a train one night."

But the cast has been pretty good at adapting to the sound limitations, she added.

"They play off of (the noises)," Caulfield added. "But they do it in character, so I'm OK with it."

As she told her cast members prior to the final dress rehearsal Thursday night, "Play to the top of the hill. Make sure that tree (on the hill) hears every word."

Small gestures and muted sounds are lost to audience members who aren't sitting near the stage, Caulfield explained.

Caulfield said she plans to continue the Shakespeare in the Park series next summer.

"I want to grow it, make it even bigger next year," she added.

If you didn't get the chance to catch the production during its opening weekend, there are three more performances coming up this Thursday through Sunday, July 1-3. Each show begins promptly at 7 p.m. with the "Midsummer" pre-show, followed by the main performance about 20 minutes later.

There is no charge to see any of the Shakespeare in the Park performances, but seating is limited, so those planning to catch a show are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets for seating. You can even bring a picnic supper and make it into a dinner theater performance!

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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