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BOZEMAN — Montana Shakespeare in the Parks will give free performances of “Henry IV, Part I” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in Butte and surrounding towns this month.

The company will travel more than 7,000 miles during the season, which runs from June 12 through Sept. 3, and perform in 61 communities. All performances in the area are free in local parks and public spaces, making them accessible to all.

Kevin Asselin, executive artistic director, will direct “Henry IV, Part I,” while Chicago-based director Marti Lyons will direct “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Lyons returns as guest director after having worked at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, The Actors Theatre of Louisville and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The 11 professional actors that will tour with the company were chosen out of a highly-competitive pool at auditions in Bozeman, Chicago, Houston and Minneapolis.

Asselin said the recent centennial of World War I inspired him to set “Henry IV, Part I” in that era.

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“The play has such a deep relationship with the true meaning of honor,” Asselin said. “Shakespeare gives us multiple viewpoints on what honor means to us as individuals. And it has a great relationship to Montana. If you look at the veteran population through the past 125 years, Montana leads the nation in terms of veterans per capita. I felt the connection would be exciting for us to explore.”

One of Shakespeare’s most popular characters, Falstaff, is featured prominently in both plays. The drunken knight is a foil to Prince Hal in “Henry IV” and is the catalyst for the comic action in “Merry Wives.” Returning actor Steve Peebles will play the role.

Montana Shakespeare in the Parks is an outreach program of Montana State University’s College of Arts and Architecture. Grants, corporate sponsorships and hundreds of individual donors support the free performance.

For details, visit MSIP’s website at shakespeareintheparks.org.

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