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Mahoning Valley Players brings Bard back times two

The Mahoning Valley Players is planning a double dose of Shakespeare this summer.

“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” will be staged June 18 to 20 and Shakespeare’s “All’s Well That End Well” is set for July 30 to Aug 1. Both will be done at Judge Morley Pavilion at Mill Creek MetroParks’ Wick Recreation Area in Youngstown.

“In light of the COVID-19 outbreak and the fact we weren’t able to put up a show last year, maybe the audience deserves an opportunity to laugh more and just have a nice day in the park renewing their relationship with Mahoning Valley Players,” Artistic Director Kim Akins said.

Eric Kibler will direct “The Complete Works …,” a play written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield that has a cast of three actors performing drastically shortened versions of the Bard’s body of work.

Carla D. Gipson will direct “All’s Well That Ends Well,” a comedy about a complex relationship involving the ward of a countess who loves her employer’s son, and the son who is more infatuated with an Italian girl.

“It’s a mix of comedy and tragedy,” Akins said. “There are scenes that resemble elements of (the Netflix series) ‘Bridgerton,’ so we can recreate some of that. (Rust Belt Theater Company founder) Rob Joki is doing the costumes, and we expect to do the show in period (attire). I’m hoping Rob brings all his talent and creativity to those costumes.”

Kibler already has cast his show. Auditions will be accepted online for ‘All’s Well That Ends Well” from March 26 to April 26, and arrangements can be made for interested cast members who can’t submit an online audition. Full details will be announced closer to the start of auditions.

The show has 16 principal roles, Akins said, although some may be double cast to keep cast size down and make it easier to comply with COVID-19 guidelines.

“My directors told me they’re not going to do in-person rehearsals until the weather breaks,” Akins said. “Table reads, initial interpretation sessions will be virtual.

“We don’t start rehearsing for Morley until the weather is fairly solid anyway. When Eric starts his rehearsal process, we’ll be able to rehearse doing social distancing with masks. With Carla later in the summer, maybe we’ll have gotten a handle on the vaccinations and be able to work with actors there.”

The performance setting also will allow for social distancing for the audience.

“I think the fact we’re outside make us a safer option than a lot of other theaters,” Akins said. “By June, people will want to get out, be in the open air, and if they can see some theater while doing it, that’s all the better.”

Performers definitely are ready.

“All I can say is, as a community theater actor, it’s like an addiction,” Akins said. “I think people are excited to come out and perform again instead of sitting and anxiously chewing our nails waiting for the opportunity to get on stage again.

“We’ll make every effort to protect the cast and protect the audience and bring some life back to the theater community.”

agray@tribtoday.com

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