In the past five years, a lot has changed for The Montford Park Players. After expanding the company’s season through the winter with the use of the stage at the Masonic Temple, the past five years have produced seven shows that gathered an audience of over 2,000 people (more than some previous seasons in total), including the widely popular A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Taming of the Shrew.
Since 1973, The Montford Park Players have performed the many works of William Shakespeare and other classic plays for free. Starting June 4, the company will begin their free summer season, beginning with the Asheville Shakesperience, a resident repertoire company.
Montford Park Players’ mission for the past 38 years has been to provide “quality productions of classic drama in an authentic outdoor setting.” Their latest push in reaching that goal will be revealed tonight, as the reconstruction of the Hazel Robinson Ampitheatre (funded in part by a very successful kickstarter campaign) will be complete.
The ampitheatre has two stages, the lower stage and the upper stage that is on the roof of the lower stage. For the sake of the beauty, age and condition of the upper stage, the company ordered a renovation that has been funded solely by donations and completed by the men and women of Asheville who want to see their community theatre looking better than ever. The seating will remain the same, leaving the hillside unchanged while still allowing the audience to bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets to enhance the evening.
The renovations will be revealed on Thursday for the production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare: a show that combines 38 plays, three actors and multiple rapid-speed costume changes in under two hours. The production, one which managing director, John Russell, called a “mad scramble” and the New York Times called “pithier than Python,” will run from May 12-29 and will be the last ticketed event before the free summer season.
With the new stage in place and a calendar packed with Shakespeare-related plays in order, a summer of rich, free entertainment seems to be well on its way.