When Lorijo Metz moved to Richmond, Indiana six years ago, she was “not a particular fan” of William Shakespeare.
Then Metz heard about a Two Sisters Books and More hosting an opportunity for customers to read all of Shakespeare’s plays together.
Thinking it would be an interesting way to make some acquaintances in their new town, Metz and her husband participated in the readings. As a result, Metz became entranced with Shakespeare and involved in the very beginnings of what was to become the Richmond Shakespeare Festival.
Now in its fifth year, the festival will present five performances each of “Macbeth” and “The Winter’s Tale” between June 15 and 30 in a unique venue – the shell of a former piano factory in a dramatic gorge cut through Richmond by the Whitewater River.
Metz is box office manager and a tireless champion for the festival.
Everyone should come, she says. Why? Her answer is simple: “It’s fun!”
Richmond businessman Ray Ontko is president of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival board. “We’ve matured a lot over the last five years,” Ontko said.
Ontko describes the company as “a combination of working professionals, college-age acting and technical interns from universities and colleges all over the country, and veteran volunteers who together do more than any one of those groups could do individually.”
Both Ontko and Producing Artistic Director Patrick Flick are happy to see the number of cast and crew returning from past years. “If people come back, that means we’re doing something right,” said Flick.
They are also proud of the number of new people interested in joining the company. More than 500 actors, directors, and behind-the-scenes experts auditioned for just 25 onstage and backstage roles!
Saffron Henke, Assistant Professor of Acting and Directing at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, performed in RSF’s productions of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Cymbeline” last year and this year will direct “The Winter’s Tale.”
“I love this company,” she said. Henke also raves about the Starr Gennett building -- the old factory with its soaring ceiling and glassless windows that let the breezes blow through, “All the advantages of seeing a play outside, but with coverage from the elements!”
Henke recommends “The Winter’s Tale” to contemporary audiences. “This play has passion, theoretical adultery, romance, storms, lost babies and a bear,” she said. “What more could anyone want?”
“Macbeth” director is Susan Felder, Assistant Professor of Acting and Movement in the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. This is the sixth production of the play Felder has been involved with. “Every time you do it, it’s a different world,” she said.
“The Scottish play,” as theater people refer to “Macbeth” as, has a strong message for our world today, said Felder.
“Compromising your conscience is what the play is all about,” she said. “We watch a man lose his soul.”
Erica Pearson of Richmond is one of the amateur actors who have joined Actors Equity members and theater students from around the country in RSF productions.
“I just love doing Shakespeare,” she said. “His understanding of humans’ emotions and how they act has not changed that much.”
“This is what the masses went to before television,” Flick reminds potential audiences.
Retired English professor Lincoln Blake has missed only one play in the five years of the Richmond Shakespeare Festival. His advice to anyone hesitant to go because their last encounter with the bard was back when they were in high school? “Just try it.”
Learn more about the festival at www.richmondshakes.org.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday from June 15-30. Prices range from $20 to $30. Special packages including discounts at local restaurants or picnic lunches are available for a small additional cost.
Box Office Manager Lorijo Metz has a special tip: If you order tickets online put #WayneCountyWeekends in the coupon code and get 10 percent off.
When you’re done purchasing tickets, click over to www.visitrichmond.org for more to-see and to-do in Wayne County, Indiana.
By Louise Ronald