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The Play's the Thing

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Photo: Eliza Stoughton (Ophelia) and Christopher Peltier (Hamlet) in the 2012 MSIP production of Hamlet. Courtesy MSIP Photo: Eliza Stoughton (Ophelia) and Christopher Peltier (Hamlet) in the 2012 MSIP production of Hamlet. Courtesy MSIP

Treachery and Revenge Takes Center Stage in Heron as Montana Shakespeare in the Parks Performs “Hamlet”


The words are entrenched in the American experience, even for many who believe they’ve never experienced the works of William Shakespeare.

To be or not to be: that is the question.

Frailty, thy name is woman.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

More honored in the breach than in the observance.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

As observers fill the baseball field in the town of Heron, Montana this August 18, they’ll be settling in for a first in the 40-year history of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks—a production of Hamlet, perhaps one of the best of the best of Shakespeare’s plays.

Murder most foul...

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

This above all; to thine own self be true.

Get thee to a nunnery, go!

Artistic director Joel Jahnke says of this work, “Okay, first of all let me get this out of the way. I think this may be the finest play ever written. The story, the unforgettable and tangible characters, the “rock your soul” human themes, the action, the brilliant language… not bad for starters. As I have been working on it I keep being reminded, how many famous lines… lines that have become woven into the very language we speak every day…there are from this play. Okay so I like this play, that’s for certain.”

The lady doth protest too much...

Hoist with his own petar

Alas, poor Yorik! I knew him...

Good-night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks has a long tradition on the west end of Sanders County, and a growing audience who has become enamored of this late summer tradition. The performances are not only first-rate, but they’re free of charge—all you need to bring is something to sit on and the food and beverage of your choice for a summer’s evening of entertainment you’ll never forget.

Jahnke’s production goals for the play are simple. “I will rely on what has worked for me in directing plays for this wonderful company for the last thirty years or so. Cast it well, hire fabulous designers and trust them, cut the play to fit our restrictions of time, make it as understandable and accessible as possible and trust Shakespeare. He’s never let me down before. 

“This is a play about so many things but to me this is the story of one young man’s journey. A ‘coming of age’ story if you will. I see Hamlet as a young man.. a college kid. He’s full of angst anyway and then his father dies and his mother hastily marries his uncle who he wasn’t all that fond of to begin with. Almost immediately, we are shown Hamlet discovering the real truth behind his father’s death (from his ghost no less….what’s not to love about this play?) and that sets the wheels of revenge rolling that can not be stopped until we reach the tragic conclusion. So I want to create a Denmark that is royal, classy and also full of decadence, a Denmark in the late twenties where all these beautiful people must tragically die. It’s a beautiful Denmark but unfortunately, it’s rotten.”

The performance starts at 6 pm Mountain time. The town of Heron is just a short jaunt from Hwy. 200—the turn off is located about a mile and a half from the Idaho state line. And by the way... the title above is also from Hamlet.



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Landon Otis

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Homepage, Headlines, Heron, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, Hamlet, Joel Jahnke

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