In Memoriam:

Shakespeare on the Green
Greenfield Lake Amphitheater
The Temptest: Fri. – Sun. with Thur. June 23. 5/27-6/16, 8 p.m.
Much Ado About Nothing: 6/3-26,
8 p.m. • Free

DEDICATED TO M.C. ERNY: Shakespeare on the Green dedicates its 2011 season to its beloved and missed friend, MC Erny (top), who passed six days after the 2010 production ended. Courtesy photo.

Enchanted forests of mystery and suspense; enduring tales of love, comedy and drama—the storytellers of all storytellers will be honored this week in Wilmington: Shakespeare. The 19th annual Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green festival welcomes to the stage two plays, “The Tempest” and “Much Ado About Nothing.” And Shakespeare won’t be the only honored member of the theater arts this year either. M.C. Erny, a core participant of Shakespeare on the Green, passed away six days after her final performance in the 2010 production of “The Merchant of Venice.” Erny’s contributions cannot be replaced but certainly will be remembered by close friends, especially the festival’s managing producer and artistic director, Cherri McKay.

“Putting into words what M.C. did for this company is difficult,” McKay recounts. “[Her] presence melded the company to greater respect for Shakespeare; her spirit has imbued in me a true sense of friendship.”

Playing many roles as an actor, Erny was also an ingenious editor of scripts, a maven of performance make-up and a provider of theater needs. Whether offering a wig from her personal collection or making generous monetary contributions—she covered the ever-increasing costs and needs of pre-show production each year—her love for performance art has left an indelible imprint on the people she left behind. Yet McKay says her friend’s enthusiasm, knowledge and presence on stage outweighed all other gifts.

“M.C. was so much more than just a benefactor,” she says. “We would give it back tenfold to have her in our midst again—healthy, happy and on stage.”

The local company meant so much to Erny. Primarily, it pursues and encourages followers of the Brit bard.

“She believed strongly in our mission to keep Shakespeare accessible to all,” McKay notes. “She considered Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green an important part of her legacy. She will always have her rightful position in memory with this company. With never ending gratitude and love, we dedicate this season’s festival to her memory.”

Erny was only one of many people who believed in Shakespeare’s impact on our cultural fabric. Mayor Bill Saffo has been an active supporter of Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green for many years and attends at least one production annually. He also notes the importance of introducing Shakespeare’s classic readings and plays to kids at an early age. Great minds of the past must be revered for the survival of cultural arts.

“Just as we keep Socrates, Plato or Aristotle alive, we should keep Shakespeare alive,” Saffo says. “Private productions like [Shakespeare on the Green] help.”

The support of the community and on-going contributions help pay proper homage to the famed wordsmith. The City of Wilmington has recognized the intrinsic value of the annual festival and has even proclaimed May and June Cape Fear Shakespeare on the Green Months. While the public shows support by donations and attending performances, now more than ever both are critically needed.

The 2011 season welcomes The Shakespeare Youth Company’s performance of “The Tempest,” directed by its founder, McKay. “It’s a great choice for all ages,” she says.

The play follows Prospero, a sorcerer and the rightful Duke of Milan, who is betrayed by the collaboration between his own brother, Antonio, and King Alonso. Prospero is set adrift with his daughter Miranda, landing on an enchanted isle. Here, bewitching events get underway, as spirits visit, love festers, and revenge takes on the ugly face of murderous plots.

Also on the 2011 bill, “Much Ado About Nothing” will be presented by the adult company and directed by Steve Vernon. McKay praises the veteran actor and director for his ongoing and meaningful work within the theater community. “His novel approach to ‘Much Ado…’ will be interesting and entertaining,” McKay says.

Upon the return from his victory against his rebellious brother (Don John), Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon, visits Leonata, the governor of Messina. Accompanied by two of his officers, Benedick and Claudio both find themselves sucked into a spider’s web of love. Comedy ensues, as does tragedy, all in true Shakespearean form.

McKay will also reveal a sneak peak for next year’s benchmark 20th performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which will honor the first production done at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater in 1993.

Each performance will begin at 8 p.m., weekends through June. “The Tempest” will open May 27 and run through June 16. “Much Ado About Nothing” will debut June 3 and runs through the 26, with an additional show on June 23. Actor Appreciation

Night performance dates will be June 3-5, 10-12, 17-19 and 23-26. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. with free admission.

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