Dallas Year coordinator Bethany Berry was surprised when she saw how quickly the tickets at the University of Dallas’ Student Activities and Leadership Center (SALC) to the Shakespeare in the Park production of “King Lear” sold out on Wednesday morning, Sept. 9.
She had expected students to come throughout the day to purchase tickets when they went on sale at 9 a.m.; less than an hour later, however, they were gone.
“You expect that with something like Six Flags, but we weren’t really expecting it for [Shakespeare in the Park],” Berry said.
Berry worked with Shakespeare Dallas, which puts on Shakespeare in the Park, over the summer as a social media intern, but it did not immediately occur to her to make it a Dallas Year event. Dallas Year is an organization run by the SALC that provides discounted tickets to a wide variety of Dallas-Ft. Worth events to University of Dallas students.
Now, however, students will attend the show on the night of Sept. 18, for “King Lear’s” opening weekend at the outdoor Samuell-Grand Amphitheater.
The play tells the tragic tale of a king who disowns his youngest daughter for failing to flatter him more than her sisters. He is then promply betrayed by the same supposedly faithful daughters.
“I don’t know why I’m surprised though, because I feel like Shakespeare is really popular to [University of Dallas] students, especially people in drama or theater,” said Berry. “They want to go experience live theater, and this is a nice twist, where they get to enjoy Texas at night, instead of in an indoor theater.”
She adds that the choice of play is attractive to UD students because many read the tragedy during their Rome semester.
Sophomore drama major Mary Hinze agreed with Berry that students want to experience live theater. Hinze saw Shakespeare Dallas’ “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” over the summer.
“It adds something you don’t get in the classroom,” said Hinze, noting that these works were meant to be performed rather than read.
By performing the shows outside, Shakespeare Dallas hopes to make these plays more accessible to the people.
“The reason they are a non-profit is because they want people to be able to afford to go. So making it outside is a universal way to get people to be able to afford it,” Berry said.
However, outdoor performances create new challenges, especially for “King Lear’s” set designer, Donna Marquet, wife of UD’s own drama professor Stefan Novinski.
“I have to design a set that can tolerate pretty much all the things that Texas can do to it, and be ready to withstand the heat and the wind and the rain,” said Marquet. “We have had sets fall over out there, so we have to be conscious of height, structure, stuff that you really wouldn’t worry as much about in an interior theater.”
Halfway through the show’s run, the set must be packed up and moved to a new venue, Addison Circle Park.
“We actually have to traverse a moat. We have to build a set over a body of water,” Marquet said of Addison Circle Park. Still, she feels that this, her third set transfer, will be more streamlined.
This play in particular also presents its own set of challenges.
“King Lear is a sweeping epic where we go to multiple locations, exteriors and interiors. And you never want to stop the momentum of the show with a scene change, so you have to create a design that is fluid,” Marquet said
Despite these difficulties, the atmosphere of Shakespeare in the Park is, in Marquet’s eyes, “magical”.
“There’s something really fantastic about surviving such an oppressively hot day, and then going and sitting … with a picnic blanket, and your wine and your cheese, and a pillow and good friends,” Marquet said. “There’s such a lovely festival atmosphere as opposed to being stuck in your chair in row four, seat A, with your eighteen inches of space.”
Marquet, who understands the special place King Lear holds in the UD community, shared her impression of the show from seeing rehearsals:
“What I saw that I found really surprising, that [I] didn’t expect from just reading it, is how truly sympathetic I am for the characters. And I hope that the students really get that sort of empathy that these fantastic performers can bring them that maybe didn’t come off the page for them.”
King Lear will run Sept.16-26 at Samuell-Grand Amphitheatre and Oct.1-11 at Addison Circle Park. Tickets are $12 for Thursdays and Sundays and $15 for Fridays and Saturdays and can be purchased at shakespearedallas.org. Discounts are available for students and seniors at the venue, and are $7 for Thursdays and Sundays and $12 for Fridays and Saturdays.