Jeffrey Nauman (left) and David Montee (right) in King Lear.
James Francis Ginty as the title character in the 2010 production of Macbeth.
Rachel Eskenazi-Gold as Jessica in The Merchant of Venice.
Caroline Murrah portrays Cobweb in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2012.
Mia Pak as Fantine in the 2014 Interlochen Arts Camp production of Les Miserables.
Laura Mittelstaedt as Portia in The Merchant of Venice.
For the past ten years, the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival has brought professional-quality Shakespeare performances to northern Michigan. This summer, the Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary with two performances: William Shakespeare’s King Lear and Lloyd Suh’s American Hwangap.
"Both of our titles this summer, King Lear and American Hwangap, offer a look into an aging patriarch,” said Director of Theatre and Interlochen Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director William Church. “Although the plays are quite different, they are tied together by the complexities of this theme that touches us all."
The notoriously complex title role in King Lear was portrayed by longtime Interlochen theatre faculty member David Montee. Montee has held leading roles in several past productions of the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival, including Friar Laurence in Romeo and Juliet, Jaques in As You Like It and Polonius in Hamlet. A review by Encore Michigan called Montee’s portrayal of King Lear “a force of nature” and praised his performance as “fiercely emotional and evocative.”
Besides Montee, several Interlochen Arts Camp and Arts Academy faculty are featured in King Lear, including Laura Mittelstaedt, J.W. Morrissette, Jeffrey Nauman and Scott Harman. As usual, the festival’s performances also prominently feature Interlochen Arts Camp and Arts Academy alumni: every non-faculty member of the King Lear cast is an alumnus or alumna of an Interlochen program.
“One of the highlights for me is having our recent graduates come back to campus to perform alongside their former faculty members and other alumni who are further along in their careers,” Church said. “Our productions help complete the education cycle, offering an important opportunity for apprenticeship through performance."
Some of the notable alumni who have participated in the Festival over the years include Broadway actors Noah Ricketts (IAA 09-10), Rachel Eskenazi-Gold (IAA 10-11, IAC 03-09) and Dustin Tucker (IAA 94-98), as well as K-19: The Widowmaker star James Francis Ginty (IAA 95-99, IAC 91, 95).
Another alumna making her Interlochen Shakespeare Festival debut this summer is Mia Pak (IAC 07-15), who stars as Esther Chun in American Hwangap. Pak is the daughter of longtime World Youth Symphony Orchestra conductor Jung-Ho Pak, and has appeared in Interlochen Arts Camp productions including Les Miserables and Crazy for You.
American Hwangap is only the second non-Shakespeare play performed at the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival. In 2016, the Festival expanded to include newer plays alongside Shakespeare’s classics as a testament to the continued tradition of playwriting.
The Shakespeare Festival was founded in 2008 as a joint venture between the Department of Theatre and Interlochen Presents. Its goal is to engage northwest Michigan audiences through professional theatre that celebrates the Shakespearean imagination. The festival is hosted annually in the open-air Upton-Morley Pavilion.
“We are all very proud of having produced 10 years of professional theatre at Interlochen,” said Church. “There is no better way to spend a summer evening in Northern Michigan than under the stars in the beautiful Upton-Morley Pavilion watching one of the greatest plays ever written.”
To learn more about the Interlochen Shakespeare Festival, visit https://tickets.interlochen.org/shakespeare.