Rock Ledge hosts return of Shakespeare in the Park

       Shakespeare in the Park, a downtown tradition until the mid-'90s, will return Aug. 5-28, with the “park” being the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site.
       Theatreworks (the professional theater at UCCS) will perform nightly shows of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in a 60 by 40-foot tent with seating that will be set up by the pond and large meadow near the Rock Ledge House.
       “Audiences will be treated to more than a play-they will find themselves immersed in a delightful world, both in and outside of the tent at Rock Ledge Ranch,” a press release elaborates. “There will be musicians, minstrels, jugglers, and clowns on the meadow-audiences are invited to picnic first on the beautiful grounds and then see the show, which begins at 7:30, just about sundown.”
       Tickets will range in price from $10 to $30, with the proceeds to be shared between Theatreworks and Rock Ledge Ranch, said Drew Martorella, executive director of Theatreworks. Running time will be about three hours (including a 20-minute intermission).
       Tickets can be bought in advance on the day of the show. Rock Ledge is off Gateway Road at 30th Street. For more information, call 255-3232, e-mail tickets@uccs.edu, or go to the website: theatreworkscs.org.
       “Merry Wives” was originally written by William Shakespeare after Queen Elizabeth requested another play featuring the rake, John Falstaff. According to Theatreworks artistic director Murray Ross. The Rock Ledge version will be set in the imaginary early 1900s town of Windsor, Colorado, near the Garden of the Gods. “There's a well- known fellow by the name of Sir John Falstaff who's come to town thinking he'll seduce some attractive married women,” the release continues. “There's a Welsh schoolmaster who wants to have it out with the French doctor. There's an adorable young maid by the name of Anne, with a bevy of suitors, one favored by mom, another by dad, and another by Anne herself. And there's one extremely jealous husband, who's convinced his wife is betraying him with a fat old knight. There are lots of kids who sing and like to dress up as fairies and pinch people. It's a very lively place, Windsor. You wouldn't expect anything else from a village created by William Shakespeare.”
       Martorella explained how Shakespeare and Rock Ledge came together. It all started when Theatreworks staff decided they would like to bring back the Shakespeare in the Park concept. “We just wanted to reconnect with our past,” he said. “We'd heard so many comments from people who remembered us outside. So we approached the Parks Department - Paul Butcher was still the director then - and met with him and visited a few sites.”
       Rock Ledge was one of those, and Theatreworks liked it best, with the pond and meadow and older buildings, Martorella said. Plans were formed with the help of Matt Mayberry, the department's cultural services director, and Andy Morris, ranch manager.
       Asked about the event from a ranch perspective, Morris said Theatreworks' “Renaissancey-looking blue tent” has already been set up, with final preparations to take place after the the ranch's Fiddles, Vittles & Vino bluegrass/culinary festival this Sunday, July 25.
       Having Shakespeare at Rock Ledge will be good for the 1880s-style working ranch because “it will be a great opportunity to expose the ranch to a segment of society that may not have been here before,” he said.
       The lead actors, including Bob Rais as Falstaff, have performed Shakespeare previously, Martorella said. Others in the cast are Amy Brooks, Kara Whitney, Khris Lewin, Tom Paradise, Michael Preston and Leah Chandler Mills.

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