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

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