Seattle Shakespeare Co. performs “Much Ado About Nothing” in 2017. The theater’s traveling production company, knownas Wooden O, will offer free performances of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” this month. LastLeaf Productions, another traveling theater company, will stage “Twelfth Night” and “King Lear” in August. (Photo by Alabastro Photography)

Seattle Shakespeare Co. performs “Much Ado About Nothing” in 2017. The theater’s traveling production company, knownas Wooden O, will offer free performances of Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” this month. LastLeaf Productions, another traveling theater company, will stage “Twelfth Night” and “King Lear” in August. (Photo by Alabastro Photography)

Two theater companies offer Shakespeare in the park

The free performances will take place in Lynnwood, Edmonds and Lake Stevens.

They’ll be performing the Bard’s work in the traditional Shakespearean style: outdoors, without microphones.

This summer, Last Leaf Productions, from Monroe, and the Seattle Shakespeare Co., based at Seattle Center, are each touring Snohomish County offering Shakespeare in the Park. The free performances of the Shakespeare plays “King Lear,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Twelfth Night” are scheduled in July and August.

“We’re serving the community, bringing the arts to people, maybe even for the first time,” said Jeff Fickes, Seattle Shakespeare Co. spokesman. “This may be the only cultural activity they do all year because they wouldn’t be able to afford a ticket or don’t like traveling into the city.”

The companies edit the plays, while staying true to the Bard’s words, to make the productions fast-moving and entertaining for Shakespeare lovers and novices alike. They also like to reset the plays into a different era, finding contemporary parallels to 400-year-old plays.

“Sometimes that means updating the costumes or the set to have a more timeless world,” Fickes said. “It’s very, very rare that you’ll see one of our shows in doublets and pumpkin pants — but it’s all Shakespeare’s text.”

This is the first time Seattle Shakespeare’s traveling company, known as Wooden O, and Last Leaf have produced “King Lear” for the outdoor stage. Both performances will have more contemporary sets and costumes than Shakespeare’s Elizabethan time period.

“‘King Lear’ isn’t done that often,” said Patricia Haines-Ainsworth, Last Leaf Productions president. “It’s a very complex play. There’s a lot of foreplay, but it’s about power and paranoia and family, and because of that, there are three very strong female roles.”

Directed by Jay Rairigh, Last Leaf’s “Twelfth Night” features Chelsea Braden as Viola. Tiegan Walker plays Marvolio, Viola’s steward, George Ives is Sebastian, Viola’s twin brother and Kaya McRuer is Olivia, a wealthy countess and Gilly Kelleher is Sir Toby, Olivia’s uncle.

“Twelfth Night” production is set in 1920s America. “It’s a very popular play,” Haines-Ainsworth said. “It deals with things that are happening in the world today.”

Last Leaf’s “King Lear” will be directed by Laura Kessler. That production will feature Rairigh in the title role. Wendy Joseph is Gloucester and Kira Thorkildesen, Gilly Kelleher, Audrey Herold are Lear’s daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.

As for Wooden O’s “Lear,” George Mount, artistic director of Seattle Shakespeare Co. and founder of Wooden O, will direct and David Pichette will star in the title role. R. Hamilton Wright will play Gloucester, and Vanessa Miller, Jonelle Jordan and Nabilah S. Ahmed will play Lear’s daughters, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia.

Wooden O also is producing “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” set in London during the swinging 1960s. “It has an ‘Austin Powers’ meets ‘Laugh-In’ feel to it,” Fickes said. The production, directed by Corey McDaniel, features Charles Leggett playing Falstaff, Eleanor Moseley as Mistress Page, Annie Lareau as Mistress Ford, Reginald Jackson as Master Ford, and Vince Brady as Master Page.

Since these are traveling shows, the theater companies bring the sets, music, props, costumes and makeup with them to each park. Fickes recommends that you show up 30 minutes before curtain call. Watch the actors get ready for the show as you enjoy a picnic lunch or dinner, he said.

“Watching the actors set up the set and do fight call and dance call is almost as entertaining as the show itself,” he said.

Sara Bruestle: sbruestle@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3046; @sarabruestle.

If you go

Seattle Shakespeare Co. performs “The Merry Wives of Windsor” 7 p.m. July 18-19 at Lynndale Park, 18827 72nd Ave. W., Lynnwood, followed by 3 p.m. July 22 at Edmonds City Park, 600 Third Ave. S., Edmonds. Then it returns to Lynndale at 7 p.m. July 25 and 26 to perform “King Lear.” Shows are 2 hours.

Last Leaf Productions will perform “Twelfth Night” 4 p.m. Aug. 12 and “King Lear” at 4 p.m. Aug. 26 at Eagle Ridge Park, 10020 Lundeen Parkway, Lake Stevens. Last Leaf’s shows are 1 hour.

No tickets needed. Seating is first-come, first-seated. Bring blankets and cushions for seating. Donations after each performance are welcomed.

Go to www.lastleaf99.org or www.seattleshakespeare.org/woodeno for more information.

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