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posted: 8/19/2013 2:36 PM

Wheaton College, park district team to present 'Shakespeare in the Park'

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By Bonnie McMaken
Wheaton Park District

The Wheaton Park District and Wheaton College's Arena Theater are teaming up to present Shakespeare in the Park this weekend.

The Arena Theater troupe will perform Shakespeare's lighthearted "As You Like It" at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 23 and 24, at Memorial Park, 208 W. Union Ave., Wheaton. The rain date is 7 p.m. Aug. 25. Admission is free; the park opens at 6 p.m. for seating and concessions.

The idea for the event was crafted by Andy Mangin, Arena Theater's technical director.

"A few years ago I started batting around the idea of doing a show in Memorial Park to bring theater out into the community, and the Shakespeare in the Park model was at the forefront of my mind," he said.

Mike Benard, executive director of the Wheaton Park District, got behind the idea, and the rest -- as they say -- is Shakespearean history.

This performance of "As You Like It" will feature Wheaton College theater alumni, many of whom have acted professionally, and current Wheaton students. Together, they form a unique and diverse company able to embody the various ages and personalities represented in the play.

Mark Lewis, acting and theater professor at Wheaton College, is the director.

Like any memorable Shakespearean play, "As You Like It" has a little bit of everything: mistaken identity, madness, mayhem, lust, laughter and plenty of romance.

And what better setting for a romantic play than historic Memorial Park? Couples, friends, and families alike will enjoy an evening that celebrates a master playwright, talented cast and crew, the outdoors, and the mystery and power of love.

Attendees are encouraged to bring their sense of wonder -- and a blanket or picnic basket if they wish. The DuPage County Historical Museum will be on-site selling light concession fare, soda, and water as a fundraiser for the museum.

Mangin believes the challenges of doing theater al fresco are all worth it to experience the magic of outdoor theater.

"Shakespeare was intended for the masses, to be accessible, but sometimes his work gets locked in closed rooms. We're excited to bring it out into the community to reinvestigate it. Plus, this play takes place in the Forest of Arden. It's a lot easier to imagine a forest when you turn around and there's an actual tree behind you. So, yes, we're excited by the challenge," he said.

For more information about Shakespeare in the Park and other Wheaton Park District events, visit www.wheatonparkdistrict.com. To learn more about Wheaton Arena Theater, visit www.wheaton.edu/Arena-Theater.

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