I arrived home after the final show of our fifth season feeling exhausted and very proud. I say this at the end of every season, but I almost can’t believe that we pulled off another year of Shakespeare in the State Parks. Summit Players Theater has without a doubt become the thing I am most proud of. A project that started with nothing but an idea, a desire to play out in the woods and to share stories, has become a company that has shaped me as an actor, taught me how to run a company and how to advocate for a team. It is amazing that we have celebrated five years of taking a Shakespeare play out into state parks all over Wisconsin, and that each year has been bigger and better.
Myself and a small, deeply dedicated team of volunteers make this company run, and while the numbers for each season continue to grow, and we are intensely proud that we are able to pay our touring company for their work during the summer, it is the stories and small moments with audience and community members that are the most meaningful and continue to make the project worthwhile.
I was grateful to both be part of and witness to many conversations this summer between Players and audience members in which comments were shared that this was the first Shakespeare play a young one had ever seen, that a family loved being able to come out to a park to share a story together or that these four hundred year old words made such an impact they brought someone to tears. It was an honor when parents who were concerned about bringing their children to see a tragedy trusted us enough to join us for a show and thanked us afterwards for telling the story in a way their family could connect with. It was fantastic to see familiar faces from years past and to meet new people, especially in the new parks we visited this summer.
I have loved watching the artists who have worked with us grow and thrive through a tour of Shakespeare in the State Parks. It is a uniquely challenging experience for designers, for actors and for teaching artists. Each park venue is different and requires a lot of thinking on your feet, flexibility and communication. With each new group of Players that joins us on tour for a season, we see the company grow and continue to learn how we can serve the state of Wisconsin and create a statewide, shared theatre experience.
Many, many thanks to each of you who joined us for a workshop, a performance, who filled out a survey or made a contribution. We feel your support in so many ways. It is a joy and an honor to have shared this past season with you. Thank you. We’ll see you in the parks!