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All's Well That Ends Well

OLIVIA HOFF AS Helena plays the heroine of William Shakespeare's "All's Well That Ends Well," which opens Friday at 7 p.m. in the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell.

"All's Well That Ends Well" is the name of the play that will be the third annual Shakespeare in the Park production from Detroit Lakes' Historic Holmes Theatre.

But it might also serve as something of a motto for the 15 cast and crew members who will be presenting the play in six performances at the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell, starting this Friday, June 24.

Rehearsals for this year's production began a little later than normal, according to director Nikki Caulfield, because of a particularly critical shortage in theatrical essentials: namely, actors.

Not quite enough people showed up for the play auditions held in mid-May, leaving a few pivotal roles unfilled. So an emergency call went out to amateur theater groups and other aspiring thespians in surrounding communities, and fortunately, the requisite number of performers came forward on the second try.

"I heard about the show, but I didn't audition," said Nathan Roy, a Dilworth resident who plays Bertram, Count of Rousillon in the show.

When he realized that they were still looking for actors to play some of the roles, however, Roy e-mailed Caulfield directly.

"I'm fascinated with Shakespeare, and it seemed like something I wanted to be a part of," he said. "So I e-mailed Nikki, and she said, 'OK, let's do it.'"

Another post-audition addition to the cast was Andy Gustafson, who plays Lord Lafeu.

"I'm friends with Reid (Strand, who plays Parolles), and he told me they were in search of more actors, so I said I would do it," Gustafson said. "It's been a bit of a challenge -- we all have jobs, and four of us have to commute (from the Fargo-Moorhead area) for every rehearsal. But it's been a lot of fun."

"Casting was really hard this time," said Katie Anderson (Rinalda), a veteran of all three Shakespeare in the Park seasons in Detroit Lakes.

"But once we got the whole cast together, things started falling apart -- I mean falling into place!" she joked, laughing.

"It's been a challenge at times, with missing cast members, but things are going pretty good now," said Bobby Heimark, another three-year Shakespeare in the Park veteran. "It's been fun."

"We started rehearsing the week before Memorial Day," Caulfield said.

Despite the fact that the group has only been in rehearsals for about a month, however, the director believes they will be more than ready come Friday's debut performance, which gets underway at 7 p.m.

"We will be ready by Friday, I have no worries," she said. "This is a remarkably good cast. They've put a lot of work into this, and it definitely shows."

"I really wanted to do outdoor theater," said Reid Strand (Parolles), a former theater major at Minnesota State University-Mankato who now makes his home in Fargo. "I knew Maggie Olson, the assistant director, from working at FMCT (Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater), and she highly recommended this group."

Strand said he was "very excited" for Friday's debut performance, adding that working with Caulfield and the Detroit Lakes group has been "a breath of fresh air."

In fact, that could be taken quite literally -- all performances will take place in an outdoor setting.

"So far, so good," Roy said. "I'm a little nervous... this is the first play I've been in since seventh grade -- and that was only a one act play! This is five acts, and it's Shakespeare. But we've been having a blast with it."

"It's going quite well," Gustafson said. "This is the first time I've done theater in two years, and I'm happy to be given the opportunity."

"I'm ready (for Friday)," said Anderson. "It's always an adventure, doing outdoor theater -- because something always goes wrong -- but when it does, all you can do is laugh, because if you freak out it just causes more problems."

"With outdoor theater, every show will be a product of the environment -- the weather, the audience, other people in the park -- every show is going to be a little different," said Gustafson.

Performing outdoors

Indeed, rolling with the punches is just part of presenting live theater in an outdoor venue, said Caulfield, who has served as director for all three seasons of Shakespeare in the Park.

"We're hoping for clear skies, not too hot, not too cold, not too much wind -- but you can't do much about the weather," she said. "If the forecast is good, I tell people they should come that night."

As an example, she added, last year's final performance of Shakespeare in the Park drew the biggest crowd they had seen thus far -- and halfway through the show, the rain started pouring down.

The most disruptive event that's occurred in the past couple of years, however, happened during the first season -- when a little kid rode his bike onto the bandshell stage during a live performance.

"He was 3 or 4 years old, and completely oblivious that there was a show going on," she said. "The cast stopped and watched him until he rode off, then resumed the play.

"We have to be prepared for anything."

One bit of advice Caulfield had for those attending any of the upcoming performances: Sit as close to the stage as possible.

"It's outdoor theater -- you know there's going to be ambient noise. It's in the middle of a busy city park," she added.

All six performances of Shakespeare in the Park will be offered free of charge; guests are invited to bring their lawn chairs and blankets, or use one of the park benches on hand. You can even bring a picnic supper (or a late lunch if you're coming to one of the Sunday matinees).

However, she cautioned, if you want a seat up close, come early -- seating is strictly first come, first served.

And as Caulfield told the cast prior to Monday night's dress rehearsal -- the first full dress rehearsal for the show -- she's hoping for a "packed house" every night, weather permitting.

"It's going to be a good show," she said.

The schedule

"All's Well That Ends Well" opens on Friday, June 24, at 7 p.m. in the Detroit Lakes City Park Bandshell. The show will continue Saturday, June 25, at 7 p.m., Sunday, June 26, at 2 p.m., Friday and Saturday, July 1-2, at 7 p.m., and the closing matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 3.

All shows are free and open to the public, though free will donations are welcomed. Call 218-844-7469 (SHOW) for more information.

The plot

The story of the play is quite simple: orphan girl (Helena) meets rich boy (Bertram) and falls in love. However, since she is not nobly born, he wants nothing to do with her. The play follows all the tricks Helena pulls to get Bertram to fall in love with her as he runs away time and time again, ending with the Queen of France stepping in and marrying them.

"All's Well That Ends Well" is one of Shakespeare's lesser-performed plays, as it falls into the "problem plot" category. It's lighthearted, but it's not exactly a comedy in the standard sense. It's as though Shakespeare took all the elements of a fairy tale -- unrequited love that is tested over and over, the maid marrying the prince, and a king who saves the day -- and inserts a little reality into the proceedings.

The comedy comes from reality meeting the fairy tale and the odd situations that result from it.

"It's Cinderella gone wrong," Caulfield said. "It's a comedy -- mostly -- but the ending is a bit strange, even awkward.

"It's a lot funnier than I thought it would be," she admitted -- in fact, the language actually gets a bit risqué at times.

But it's still written by William Shakespeare, so some of the phrasing may be a bit unfamiliar to those not familiar with his work. To assist audiences with understanding the play, Caulfield has employed the services of a narrator (Kodi Boit), who speaks in "contemporary English."

"We wanted to make it more audience friendly," she said.

One other change: The subplots have been removed.

"There's just one plot," Caulfield said, "so it should be easy to follow."

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Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454