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The 2019 Summer Circle season concludes this weekend with a performance of the family musical “Dames at Sea.” (Photos courtesy of Eloy Gomez Orfila)
A romantic venue under the stars, or an outing for the whole family, the MSU Department of Theatre’s Summer Circle provides a stage experience that has attracted a variety of audiences for the past six decades.
Summer Circle Theatre puts on a new show each weekend in June. The productions are free to all and are performed in an accessible outdoor amphitheater situated between Kresge Art Building and The Auditorium. Each show is rated for age appropriateness, allowing for an atmosphere of family fun or a more serious setting for shows with adult content.
In the event of inclement weather, the show will move inside to the Fairchild Theatre.
Summer Circle’s 2019 season – Laughing Matters – has featured classics such as “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde as well as a premiere of the show “Comic Timing” by Rob Roznowski. The season’s final show, “Dames at Sea,” written by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller with music by Jim Wise, is advertised as “a musical for the whole family.” It opened Thursday evening and continues Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. before its final showing at 4 p.m. Sunday.
Last weekend about 200 people of all ages gathered for the final performance of “The Importance of Being Earnest”. The show left the audience laughing, especially at Lady Bracknell’s ridiculous adages delivered by actress Zaria Aikens. Most viewers brought their own seats and blankets due to the colder than usual June day. The weather didn’t dampen the light-hearted mood which proved to be contagious among the audience members.
"Dames at Sea," onstage at Summer Circle Friday evening through Sunday afternoon, features plenty of tap dancing in an homage to movie musicals of the 1930s.
The venue itself also adds to this mood. The small, yet open feel of the amphitheater allows for parents and children alike to stretch their legs if necessary. It allows the audience to form an intimate connection with the actors without being hidden by a darkened theatre. This amphitheater, appropriately called “The Summer Circle,” has been a new setting for shows over the last five years. Its acoustics and accessibility create a space which is easier for audiences to navigate than the previous model’s wooden bleachers alongside the Red Cedar River.
One happy patron in an interview with the theatre company said that following the theatre over the years has been “like following our favorite sports team.”
This season audience members have filled out surveys on which of the shows performed over the past 58 years they would like to see in next year’s 60th diamond season.
The theatre’s seasons pass quickly, but its fans will be there, on the edge of their seats, knowing there is always next year.
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