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Watching a Shakespeare performance this summer just became a whole lot more convenient. The Michigan Shakespeare Festival, the Official Shakespeare Festival of the State of Michigan, has arrived in Wayne County for the first time, at Canton’s The Village Theater at Cherry Hill.

Originally called the Jackson Shakespeare Festival when it opened in 1995 as an outdoor festival, for its 21st season, the festival now runs for five weeks—they opened their season for two weeks performing at Jackson’s Baughman Theatre, and will continue for three weeks in Canton from July 29 through August 16.

The Festival presents three shows this summer—Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry IV, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals. Artistic Director Janice L. Blixt describes the selection as “one Shakespeare show that everyone immediately knows, a second show is always one by Shakespeare but lesser known. Our third show is always a classical show by a classical author who isn’t Shakespeare.”

Blixt is directing both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry IV, which has been edited down from its original two parts into one streamlined production.

The same company of actors perform in all three shows. Many of the actors and behind-the-scenes artists and designers have worked with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival for years. This year, about 30 percent of the company is new. Blixt maintains the balance with “a good mix of the people we know and love, as well as new talent. The new blood helps.”

As does the new venue. In seeking out a secondary location, the Village Theater was literally a perfect fit, as both theaters seat 400. “The footprint of the stage is the same in Canton and in Jackson, so when we put up our shows, in terms of scenic design, we don’t have to make major changes. The combo platter of the stage being the same, and the warm reception, made us go ‘this is the place.’”

Blixt sees the expansion as an important one. “The state of Michigan is a very, very big state. As the official festival, we were limiting our audience in terms of location.”

She describes audience members who came to Jackson from the “north Detroit suburbs, who were only going to see one show because they felt like it was so long of a drive.” At present, 65 percent of her audience buys tickets to all three shows, but not necessarily to attend all in the same weekend. Instead of potentially losing audiences during the first two weeks in Jackson, ticket sales were actually up by 10 percent thanks to a greater focus on being able to market those shows to the west side of the state.

“We’re really glad to be able to take these shows and bring them to a more densely populated area and more people.” 

To view the full schedule of performances, click here. To purchase tickets for individual shows, or to get a season subscription for all three performances, click here.