Museum, ACT partner to bring ‘Shakespeare in the Village’

Published 4:17 pm Thursday, August 17, 2023

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Good things come to those who wait, as “Shakespeare in the Village — Much Ado About Nothing” arrives at the Freeborn County Museum, Library & Village on Sunday.

Risha Lilienthal, board member at Albert Lea Community Theatre, an organizer of the event as well as curator of collections and exhibits at the museum, said the idea came about a year or two ago when her brother said he would like to see Shakespeare outside in Albert Lea.

Being a fan of the poet, she mentioned it to Stephanie Kibler, executive director at the museum, who suggested using the museum’s outdoor village, which resulted in a partnership between the museum and Albert Lea Community Theatre.

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“We had an interest from people on the board, too, who liked Shakespeare as well,” she said. “The language is interesting and fun. You don’t usually go around and find a lot of people that will say, ‘Hey, let’s read Shakespeare together.’”

This will be a more contemporary version of the show and more similar to the Joss Whedon 2013 movie starring Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Jillian Morgese. Food trucks will be on hand.

“We might have some face-painters and balloon animals, that kind of stuff,” she said.

Lilienthal said the museum used to have shorter melodramas, and while they still do “Autumn in the Village,” “Shakespeare in the Village” was its own entity.

“Autumn in the Village” is very much like a pioneer village kind of experience where you see demonstrations within our different buildings,” she said. “This is a performance of Shakespeare with a little extra flair to different parts of the village as well.”

As for “Much Ado About Nothing,” the play tells the story of two soldiers returning from war and their relationships with two women.

“One of the pairs always fights and the other pair is shyly in love with each other,” she said. “It goes about mistaken identities and confusion with love and feelings.”

Auditions were held in April.

According to Lilienthal, what separated this from a typical Renaissance festival was that the play featured a longer performance, and audience members sit on the grass and are encouraged to take a picnic blanket or lawn chair.

There are also contingencies if the weather is bad, with the show being moved into the museum.

There are no tickets for the free event. Lilienthal encouraged arriving early for the first-come, first-serve event, and she said vendors would open prior to the show as well. Donations will be accepted, with profits going to ACT as well as the museum.

Performers were also looking forward to something new.

Kristi White plays Beatrice.

“I teach English … and I have a love of literature and language, and I love Shakespeare,” she said. “When the opportunity arose I decided I had to go for it.”

Performing outside was also different.

“Here, you have so many outside noises and the wind, and it might be a complication for the audience to hear us,” she said.

Jon Cochran plays the friar.

“I enjoy Shakespeare, so this is something I’ve never done before — an outdoor version of Shakespeare,” he said. “I thought it’d be fun.”

Like White, he admitted doing this would be different than a typical play because of how outdoor elements could affect the play.

Maddie Balthazor helps out backstage.

“I think it’s really fun to help out, whether if you’re on stage or backstage, it’s always fun to be a part of it,” she said.

Looking forward, Lilienthal said she would love to expand the festival to include more events, and thought having jousting or sword fighting could be fun.

The festival is free to attend and will run four days: 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Aug. 24 to 26. Lilienthal encouraged people to arrive early to visit local vendors, including Albert Lea Monument, woodworkers and crafters. 112 on Broadway will be there for the Aug. 26 performance.



Leonato, governor of Messina: Lucas Johnson

Hero/Sexton: Risha Lilienthal

Beatrice: Kristi White

Margaret:Heather Kohler

Ursula: Alexis Kohler Torley

Don Pedro, prince of Aragon: Jackson Bighley

Count Claudio: Aaron Zogg

Signior Benedick: Michael G. Lilienthal

Don John: Kristan Dye

Borachio: Anna Schmitz

Conrade: Adele Hehr-Rosnow Helleksen

Dogberry: Diane Heaney

Verges: Kristan Dye

Georgiana Seacoal: Emma McColley

Fr. Francis: Jon Cochran



Maddie Balthazor, Connor Hansen, Arielle Miller, Sue Runden, Melody Torley, Mason Torley