Michigan Shakespeare Festival to Open 7/18

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival's 19th Season opens on July 18th with preview performances of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's quintessential comedy, followed by the rarely produced history gem King John and Oliver Goldsmith's hilarious She Stoops to Conquer.

Helmed by MSF Artistic Director Janice L Blixt, Twelfth Night is being set in a gloriously loopy Regency-Neo-Romantic-Glam-Piano-Rock-iPod-Toting land of Illyria and features original music and lyrics adapted from the Shakespeare by MSF Artistic Associate Kate Hopgood, Festival Composer. This comedy of mistaken identity stars Melanie Keller as Viola, a young woman shipwrecked in a strange land who disguises herself as a boy to get a job in the court of the Duke Orsino (David Blixt, MSF Artistic Associate). She falls in love with Orsino, who in turn is in love with Olivia (Janet Haley, MSF Artistic Associate) who then falls in love with the disguised Viola. A heartfelt and lovely musical Romantic comedy, with some of the funniest drunken clowns in classical theatre, Twelfth Night combines all of the great comic conventions of the day into a frothy fun evening of theatre. Wilde Award Nominee Designer (2012's Pygmalion) Jeromy Hopgood is designing the ephemeral and magical sets for this production, and the time-period-bending costumes are designed by Wilde Award Nominee Designer Melanie Schuessler (also for 2012's Pygmalion).

Blixt is thrilled to bring back John Neville-Andrews (MSF Artistic Director 1997-2009) to helm Shakespeare's King John, a seldom-seen show with some of the most memorable characters in all of the history plays. King John, played by Paul Riopelle (MSF 2000, 2002-2004) is a regent torn between enjoying the trappings of kingship and tortured by the responsibility of the job. John is guided by his intense and charismatic mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine (Amy Montgomery) and is left bereft of purpose after her death. This King John is a streamlined modern production full of seething rivalries and tender family connections. Renae Skoog, Wilde Award Nominee Designer for 2012's Love's Labour's Lost, is designing the eclectic and contemporary costumes.

She Stoops to Conquer, Oliver Goldsmith's 1773 play has been classified as a Comedy of Manners, a Romantic Comedy, a Laughing Comedy, a Satire, and as a Farce-in other words it's a funny, funny play. Directed by MSF favorite Robert Kauzlaric (2012's Love's Labour's Lost and 2011's Tartuffe), She Stoops features the Hardcastle Family: Mr. (Alan Ball, MSF Artistic Associate) a man who appreciates tradition and propriety, Mrs. (Amy Montgomery) who appreciates style and modern conveniences, her son Tony (Caleb Probst) who just wants to have fun with his friends, and their daughter, Kate (Melanie Keller) who's smart enough to know she'd like to marry for love. But first she has to get her suitor to notice her. Set in the jazzy-fun, sitcom world of 1957, this She Stoops to Conquer brings out the joy of this almost unclassifiable comedy.

The Michigan Shakespeare Festival Season of Twelfth Night, King John and Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer runs July 18- August 11 at the Potter Center in Jackson, Michigan. For tickets call the JCC Box Office at 517-796-8600 or visit www.MichiganShakespeareFestival.com.

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