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2019 News Shakespeare on Sugarloaf
August 06, 2019 : Chillicothe campus professor contributes to the cultural development of the community


Teaching hasn’t been the only thing on Dr. Lance Mekeel’s agenda this summer! Mekeel, Ohio University Chillicothe’s Lecturer in Theater and Communications and Director of the Theater Program, has been rather busy this summer directing his first play with “Shakespeare on Sugarloaf,” a major initiative of The Scioto Society, the producing organization of the outdoor drama Tecumseh!


This year’s production, The Winter’s Tale, was performed on Sunday, July 21, 2019 at Sugarloaf Mountain. Shakespeare on Sugarloaf is performed annually by the cast of Tecumseh! and offered free of charge as an enhancement to the cultural well-being of the region.


The first three acts of The Winter’s Tale present the story of Leontes, king of Sicilia, who accuses his wife, Hermione of adultery with his best friend, Polixenes, king of Bohemia. Leontes attempts the murder of Polixenes, who escapes with Leontes’s advisor Camillo back to Bohemia, then imprisons Hermione. Leontes shuns all rational advice, ultimately putting Hermione on trial in sham proceedings, indirectly killing their son over his despondency at her state. Hermione dies at the trial upon hearing about their son’s death.


Act four takes place 16 years later in Bohemia, where Prince Florizel, son of Polixenes, without his father’s knowledge, is courting a shepherd girl, Perdita. Polixenes disguises himself to question Florizel and Perdita and ultimately reveals himself to break them up. The two young lovers flee Bohemia for Sicilia and convince Leontes, now repentant, that they have been sent by Polixenes. Polixenes follows them to Sicilia where they all reconcile between acts four and five. In act five, Hermione gets brought back from the dead by Leontes’s counselor Paulina, who had apparently created a statue of Hermione when she died. The play ends with the unions of Florizel and Perdita and Camillo and Paulina, and reunion of Leontes and Hermione.


Because Shakespeare’s works were written for another cultural context and because they are in the public domain, Mekeel decided to rework the play so that the production focused only on what he believes today’s audience needs to experience. “To me, the play is about the fact that men need to do better and act with honor, so I wanted to get rid of extraneous subplots in order to focus on this,” commented Mekeel. Additionally, Mekeel explained his sensibility as a director as one prizing metatheatricality and presenting theatre’s awareness of itself in performance, a technique in which Shakespeare also had an interest.


In order to meet the audience’s needs, Mekeel restructured the published version(s) of the text, fitting what was formerly the first three acts of the play inside act four as a play-within-the play written on the spot by Leontes as a look back at how dishonorably he had behaved. The production ended with act five, but in this version, Hermione had been alive the whole time, just dead inside, and it is after Leontes’s completion of the play-within-the play as a final act of repentance that Paulina is able to “bring her back to life.” To hold the playtext together, Mekeel incorporated passages and scenes from other Shakespeare plays such as Hamlet, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, Henry V and Henry VIII.


“I am honored to have had the opportunity to work on this production,” Mekeel remarked. “The Scioto Society exists to provide economic growth to Ross, Pike, and Pickaway counties. Being able to contribute to this mission is a privilege.”


Mekeel is a 2013 graduate of Bowling Green State University with his PhD in Theatre and is a certified teacher of the Michael Chekhov Technique of acting through the National Michael Chekhov Association.


As a member of The Scioto Society for four years, Mekeel has been the moderator on several different occasions for Sack it with Shakespeare. Sack it with Shakespeare is a lunch and learn session held prior to the play in which the audience can hear from the cast and crew in preparation for the upcoming production.


Mekeel looks forward to directing another production with Shakespeare on Sugarloaf in the future.