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South Dakota Shakespeare Festival Returns for 2021

South Dakota Shakespeare Festival actors in front of the Vermillion Theater marquee that reads Twelfth Night. The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival will present "Twelfth Night, or What You Will" June 17-20, 2021 in Vermillion's Prentis Park.

VERMILLION, S.D. – The South Dakota Shakespeare Festival (SDSF) plans to move forward with a professional production of "Twelfth Night, or What You Will," in Vermillion’s Prentis Park, June 17-20, 2021. In consideration of the COVID-19 environment, the rehearsal and production process will be carefully and responsibly mitigated.

Executive artistic director Chaya Gordon-Bland looks forward to returning to live performances.

“In considering our production for this summer, there was an overwhelming consensus within the company that it was important to produce a joyful and uplifting comedy," said Bland. "This has been such a challenging and stressful time in the world. The SDSF wants to bring joy to people’s lives and help support health, happiness and healing for our communities through theatre. 'Twelfth Night' is a delightful and uplifting comedy, chock full of music, playful antics, delicious language and nuanced explorations of human relationships.”

The play will be directed by Oliver Mayes, who is finishing his M.F.A. in directing at the University of South Dakota.

“I am thrilled to be working with the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival," Mayes said. "Their commitment to accessibility and engaging with communities is something I deeply admire; I look forward to collaborating on a production of 'Twelfth Night' that is truly a communal experience.”

Mayes said he finds special resonance with this play. “'Twelfth Night, or What You Will' is a play full of invitations. It invites us to examine the power of love and desire, and how that unpredictable power can bring forth conflict for societal constructs such as class and gender roles. That’s intense thinking for a comedy! But William Shakespeare has gifted us with a theatrical experience that beautifully provokes deep thought through laughter and joy.”

Throughout rehearsals and performances, the SDSF will implement an array of mitigation techniques, including de-densification, distancing, use of masks and thorough sanitation. The production in the park will take place for a live audience as well as via a streaming platform. The SDSF is also planning safe and responsible arts education programming in collaboration with their various outreach partners. Through their programs, the SDSF strives to improve and expand arts education for K-12 students and increase quality of life for youth and adults throughout southeast South Dakota. In fulfillment of the SDSF's values of access and inclusion, all programming will be free and open to the public. 

The mission of the SDSF is to engage, connect and inspire communities by exploring our shared human experiences through inclusive, professional Shakespeare productions and theatre arts education. Company values encompass access, inclusion, integrity and artistic excellence.

Since 2012, the SDSF has been producing free, world-class, Shakespeare in the Park, in Vermillion, South Dakota, accompanied by a wide array of education and engagement programming, through partnerships with local and regional schools and organizations. They value diversity and inclusion in work, and seek to create theatre and build audiences that reflect and nourish the diversity of communities. Since their inception, and in keeping with their mission, all festival events are free and open to the public. 

More information can be found 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 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson 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 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News