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Outdoor Shakespeare comes to Montinore

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTOS: JIM FOLTS - Last years outdoor Willamette Shakespeare production of Romeo & Juliet was at Stoller Vineyards in Dayton. Shakespeare, wine and food will be served this weekend at Montinore Estates, as the winery holds its annual outdoor summer celebration with the Bard’s comedy, “Twelfth Night.”

Forest Grove’s Montinore was one of the first wineries to sign on several years ago when the nonprofit Willamette Shakespeare launched its first free Shakespeare-in-wine-country production. 

Daniel Somerfield, the founder of Portland-based Willamette Shakespeare, brought the idea of quality classical theater from Seattle, where he had worked with GreenStage, which brings free productions of Shakespeare to that city’s parks.

Somerfield had also worked in the wine industry in Oregon and, putting two and two together, figured Shakespeare and wine were a perfect pairing for the metro area.

“There aren’t a lot of performing arts in the valley,” said Somerfield, who used his acting and technical theater training to create Willamette Shakespeare. “I thought there should be something like this, which combines making theater accessible to local people, is an incentive for visitors to come to wineries and is a complement for the food-and-wine crowd.”

Until last season, Somerfield directed the plays, and this year those duties fall to Grant Turner, founding artistic director of Northwest Classical Theatre Company with which Willamette Shakespeare is in collaboration. 

The company operates mostly on support from wineries whose owners recognize the value of bringing outdoor theater to their businesses and from donations — a pitch for contributions is included at each performance. 

The actors and theater technicians are paid, but all board and administration duties are performed by volunteers, Somerfield said. “It isn’t about income,” he added. “It’s about providing something the community can take advantage of.”

In each of its seasons, Willamette Shakespeare’s audiences have grown. This summer, “Twelfth Night” is expected to draw several thousand audience members to nine performances at three local wineries.

Earlier this month, performances were at Stoller Family Estate in Dayton and Aug. 15, 16 and 17 performances of “Twelfth Night” will be at Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood.

The Montinore performances will begin at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 8, and Saturday, Aug. 9, and 6 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 10. Admission is free. Food by 1910 Main in Forest Grove and Montinore wines will be available for purchase.

Montinore tasting room staffers Jenny Mosbacher and Judy Parker figure they’ll have two of the best Shakespeare-watching spots of anyone as they pour outdoors on the estate grounds.

Both Mosbacher and Parker are wine industry veterans, who will be serving Montinore’s most popular wines based on past event experience. “We can’t begin to offer everything,” said Parker, but she and Mosbacher will be able to guide patrons toward vintages that suit their individual tastes.

As for the play, Parker said there’s nothing quite like live theater. “For a lot of us, we remember Shakespeare as something stodgy from high school English class,” she said. “But in a production like this, it becomes alive and the audience is part of it. ‘Twelfth Night’ is hilarious and it’s about people we all know. Shakespeare is timeless.”

Mosbacher said bringing the crafts of playwright, actor and winemaker together is part of Montinore’s continuing tradition of being part of Forest Grove and the greater community. 

Montinore Estates is located at 3663 S.W. Dilley Road. For more information, go to montinore.com or call 503-359-5012.

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