A traveling troupe of actors will perform a pared-down version of Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” at Pattison State Park on Saturday, July 10.

Wisconsin-based Summit Players Theatre has been bringing Shakespeare’s works to state parks since 2015. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to share empowering theater experiences with children and communities throughout the state. The free performances offer short, accessible Shakespeare shows that both kids and adults can understand.

The players will offer a 45-minute educational workshop at 5:30 p.m. followed by the 75-minute performance at 7 p.m. After performing virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic, the cast and crew said they are happy to be back on the road.

“We've enjoyed very positive public response to the program so far,” Executive Director A.J. Magoon said. “In our first month, almost 500 people joined us in the parks we visited. Audiences this season have been more highly-engaged with the program than ever.”

Team members said they’ve enjoyed the return to live theater, and the way the troupe is adapting both to safety protocols and the changing needs of audiences.

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Cole Conrad, left, and Caroline Norton dance during a scene from Summit Players Theatre's "The Winter's Tale" at High Cliff Park on June 13, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Summit Players Theatre)
Cole Conrad, left, and Caroline Norton dance during a scene from Summit Players Theatre's "The Winter's Tale" at High Cliff Park on June 13, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Summit Players Theatre)

“I’m also incredibly happy that I’m able to be outdoors and in some amazingly beautiful state parks that I’ve had the pleasure of exploring when we have the chance,” actor Jackson Hoemann said.

Summit Players Theatre was initially set to perform at Pattison State Park in 2020, the park’s centennial year, according to Kevin Feind, natural resource property supervisor for Pattison and Amnicon Falls state parks and overseer of the Brule River State Forest. It was one of a host of centennial events that were canceled.

Despite the lack of events, Pattison State Park saw a boost in attendance in 2020. Visitor numbers at the park were higher than in the year 2019, and nearly doubled during what Feind called the “shoulder months,” including January, April and October through December. Although he was disappointed that centennial events were shelved, Feind was happy to see people in the park.

Gary Meader / gmeader@duluthnews.com
Gary Meader / gmeader@duluthnews.com

“It made it very obvious that people needed emotionally and spiritually, physically needed a place to go, and all state parks saw a big jump. I was told there were 2 million additional visitors in 2020 statewide,” Feind said.

Those numbers have continued to increase in 2021.

“I’m hoping what they found last year is bringing them back,” Feind said.

Events are back on the schedule this year. In addition to the Shakespeare performance, a virtual version of the annual Rivet Run, which raises money for the Friends of Pattison and Amnicon Falls state parks, just finished up. An in-person version of the 5K walk/run is planned for Nov. 7.

The park will host an arts and crafts show Oct. 2-3, with proceeds going toward the purchase of a UTV for trail grooming. Funds are being raised for a new centennial gazebo in the park through the sale of memorial bricks, which will pave the path to the new structure.