The best entertainment value in Dayton is back for a final round! Free Shakespeare! announces their farewell tour of As You Like It, directed by Travis J. Cook, performing in six outdoor venues across the Miami Valley. Running Thursday-Sundays at 7pm from July 18-August 11, the play features a cast of area professionals, students, and community members ages 16-80 and original music from Charlie Tipton. Tackling themes of community, independence, and homecoming, As You Like It promises to be a fitting goodbye for what has become a popular summer highlight for audiences across the region.
Free Shakespeare! Founder, Chris Shea, is moving back to Seattle after a four year stint in Dayton. Shea will be joining Theatre22, Seattle’s newest professional theatre company. This fall, Shea will join the cast of Lanford Wilson’s Fifth of July; the title of the play holds special significance for Shea as it is his father Richard’s birthday. It was his father’s declining health that brought him home four years ago; Richard passed away in December of 2010. After his father’s death, Shea launched “Shakespeare for Life,” an annual week-long marathon reading of the Shakespeare canon to benefit cancer patients at Grandview Hospital. In May 2013, Shakespeare for Life raised approximately $5000. In four years, Free Shakespeare! has donated thousands of dollars to area non-profits including the Grandview Foundation, Dayton Visual Arts Center, Involvement Advocacy, and the American Cancer Society.
Shea will be bringing the moniker of Free Shakespeare! with him on his move to Seattle; he plans to refine the work of the company and steer it towards less traditional modes of presentation. As to what that exactly means, Shea could only manage to quote Iago, “’Tis here, but yet confused….’ I’ll figure that out once I get there, like most other things in my life.”
As exciting of an opportunity the move is, Shea will be missed in the Dayton community. Over the past four years, he’s worked with many arts organizations including Muse Machine, the Human Race Theatre Company, Stivers School for the Arts, Zoot Theatre Co., Cityfolk, WYSO, and Rhythm in Shoes. As the Producing Artistic Director for Free Shakespeare! he has presented four summer tours, instituted a monthly Shakespeare reading series, welcomed three area premieres, and hosted two charitable readings of the complete works of Shakespeare.
Jean Howat Berry of Cityfolk has worked with Shea closely over the past four years. She says, “It has been my pleasure to work with Chris through education and outreach with Cityfolk and as a participant in one of the many wonderful Free Shakespeare activities, Shakespeare for Life. Chris has a remarkable energy: contagious, affirming and restorative. In other words, he shares his charisma, he affirms those he shares with and in the process offers a little healing for what ails you. For real. On stage, he is strong and engaging. His sensitivity, in role or out, is genuine. I will miss having him close in proximity, but will always know him close in my heart!”
Although this chapter of his life is bringing him back out West, Shea proudly discusses his time in Dayton and doesn’t discount the possibility of a future return. “Dayton is a very generous town and breeds generous people. The spirit of giving is integral to what it means to be from Dayton. My roots in this city have served me well, and I intend to continue to be an ambassador for Dayton as I move forward. In fact, some of my Seattle friends got quite tired of me talking about Dayton the last time I lived out there. What do they say, ‘you can take the kid out of Dayton….’?”
How to Say Goodbye:
Catch the final Free Shakespeare tour of As you Like It this summer. The story follows cousins Rosalind and Celia on their quest for independence. Along the way, they learn about friendship, community, love and forgiveness. True to the name Free Shakespeare!, there is no cost to attend although donations are gladly accepted post-show. Bring a blanket, chair and a picnic as you enjoy Shakespeare under the stars. All performances begin at 7PM; 90 minutes (no intermission).
July 18 & 25: Rosewood Arts Center, Kettering
July 19-21: ArtStreet Amphitheater, University of Dayton
July 26-28: Newcom Founders Park, Oregon District
Aug 1 & 8: Blommel Park, South Park
Aug 2-4: Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark
Aug 9-11: Antioch College Amphitheater, Yellow Springs
More information on the final tour is available at https://www.facebook.com/spreadthewords