There were a few raindrops that fell as Ross and I trekked to Sioux Falls, S.D. on Saturday to catch one of the performances of "Romeo and Juliet" by the Bare Bodkins Theatre Company at the Queens Bee Mill ruins at Falls Park. But fortunately the sprinkles stopped by the time we reached downtown Sioux Falls to check out a couple of book stores before we had to get to the park to grab a couple of tickets. First stop was Zanbroz Variety, an independent book store with various cool items. You just want to buy all sorts of things there, but I had to refrain. Just a couple doors down from Zanbroz is a used book store simply called The Book Shop. I grabbed a hardcover Laurie Notaro book for half off the marked price ($5). Score! Then it was onto Barnes and Noble because Ross was looking for the latest Neil Gaiman. Such the bibliophiles we are.
We got our tickets around 6 p.m. as the place can fill up fast. And thanks to Sioux Falls Park and Rec, it was free to get in. Since we had about an hour to kill before the performance, we explored the park a bit. Ross was more adventurous, clamoring over the rocks, taking photos. And here was me with the flat feet wishing I wasn't wearing these new sandals. We got our share of sunshine and marveling before making our way to the ruins. We squeezed onto the metal bleachers next to a family. When we told them it was our first time seeing a Bare Bodkins show, they said we would love it.
According to the Bare Bodkins website, it was started in 1997 by Ivan Fuller. He created the mission of "producing Shakespeare in a fun accessible way." The first production was "Macbeth." And in those 16 years, it has honored the Shakespearean stage practices, such as using simple sets and props, contemporary costumes and small casts. When Ivan and his wife Vickie left Sioux Falls in 2011, Southwest Minnesota State University alumna Jayna Fitzsimmons and her husband RJ took over.
SMSU theater professor Nadine Schmidt portrayed Lord Capulet and Friar Lawrence. It was basically a "bare bones" production of Shakespeare in the Park. There aren't too many set pieces except for a ladder-like item for the balcony scene, a couple of wooden crates. And there were seven people doing the 20 or so roles in the show. Costume changes and props were minimal. The same woman was portraying Juliet and her cousin Tybalt. The only costume change was a skirt for Juliet. And the man playing Juliet's nurse was just a hoot. The actress who played Mercutio had a lot of energy, and it showed. All of the actors made each one of the characters they played distinguishable, whether it was by voice or actions. The setting was also perfect - the audience was on three sides of the grassy "stage" in the ruins.
Scene changes were quick, and the play flowed well. Even if you're not a Shakespeare fan, it was a joy to watch. The show wrapped up yesterday, but I know that I'll be making a return trip or many to see Bare Bodkins' Shakespeare shows in the future.