South Dakota Shakespeare Festival Opens Thursday

Image Shakespeare Festival Shakespeare Festival production of Macbeth.

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival presents its fourth production this week at Prentis Park in Vermillion. “The Winter’s Tale” will be performed at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 9-11, and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 12.

The festival is a free production that was founded in 2012 by University of South Dakota professors Chaya Gordon-Bland, Greg Huckabee and Scott Mollman. Their main purpose is “a cultural offering we give to the city and the state and surrounding areas” for free, Mollman said. “South Dakota is one of the few states that doesn’t have a statewide festival. So there’s just a need for it. Prentis Park is so beautiful, and that rock wall … is such a beautiful place that wasn’t getting utilized hardly at all, so we just thought it would be a good idea to start it up,” he said.

Past performances at the festival, which draws an average of 1,200 people, include “As You Like it,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Macbeth.”

Organizers work together with Coyoteopoly, a USD student-run corporation that provides charitable services in Vermillion, to fundraise for the production throughout the year. Casting begins in February, run by Gordon-Bland, and hiring set and design workers begins in March. The festival also recruits casting members from various states, such as in New York and Minnesota, by putting ads in newspapers. Gordon-Bland travels to those places when casting begins to view auditions.

For “The Winter’s Tale,” there are around 25 paid actors and crew members working on the play, but there are also volunteers who simply want to help put on the production, and they usually do a variety of jobs from getting supplies to assisting in costume designing.

Besides the shows, there are also free workshops for children ages 8 to 18 on improv, costume design and miming. Details on the festival are available at


USD's College of Fine Arts encourages students to pursue their chosen professional field in art, music or theater through their study with nationally recognized faculty who are working professionals. Students learn and grow to be professional fine artists with great job potential anywhere in the country. The college offers opportunities for additional real-world experiences through work with guest artists, study tours abroad and opportunities at the National Music Museum and the University Art Galleries on the Vermillion campus and the Black Hills Playhouse in Custer State Park. The college brings more than 80 guests artists to campus annually to work with students.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 205 undergraduate and 73 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Michael Ewald
USD News