Interest in history drew them to play

Drissell sisters Natalee, 13, and Bella, 15, rehearse a scene for this year’s production of Richard III coming to the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival set for June 7-10. 

SIOUX CENTER—Two Sioux Center girls are excited for the opportunity to be part of this year’s South Dakota Shakespeare Festival.

Drissell sisters Bella, 15, and Natalee, 13, both have parts in this year’s production of Richard III, which runs 7 p.m. June 7-9 and 4 p.m. June 10 in Prentis Park in Vermillion, SD.

The mission of the South Dakota Shakespeare Festival is “to increase the cultural, artistic and educational offerings of the state of South Dakota and surrounding regions through professional Shakespeare performances and arts education events delivered in a lively and accessible format,” according to its website. 

This year’s play, Richard III, is a historical play by William Shakespeare believed to have been written around 1593, which depicts the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of King Richard III of England.

Both are excited to be part of the production.

“I really like reading,” Bella said. “I really like watching plays, and when I’m actually able to be in those stories, specifically like historical stuff, it’s really amazing to get to stick yourself in something.”

“I enjoy the characters and the complexities of stories,” Natalee said. “I think it’s kind of fun to just try new things like that. I think theater is a good way to learn about the world and try to be other people but still have a lot of fun.”

The sisters have been attending the festival an watching its plays for the past three years. Both having interest in Shakespeare, they checked into and found out Richard III had some kids’ parts they could try out for.

“It’s been my pet idea that I wanted to be a in Shakespeare play some day,” said Bella, who was in Sioux Center’s Community Theatre production of “Our Town” last year. She’s also been in other drama camp plays and one Dordt College production. “Getting to be part of this Shakespeare play is exciting.”

Natalee, too, had been in a community theater production years ago as well as theater camp plays.

“I enjoy history and I always thought Shakespeare was fun,” she said. “The idea of being in a full-fledged performance sounded fun too.”

Both play young boys who are sons of Richard III — Bella as Prince Edward and Natalee as Richard Duke of York — as well as other small parts sprinkled throughout the play.

“We figured we would not have large roles but it’s still exciting to be part of this production,” Bella said.

Part of that excitement is learning the history behind the production.

“I had heard that Shakespeare gave him a bad reputation even though he was fairly decent, and that he might not have done in as many people as they say he did,” Natalee said. “Shakespeare had to write the play for his time, for his ruler Queen Elizabeth I. And there are lines in the play that indicate he might not believe exactly what the play reveals.”

“It’s interesting to be playing this historical role, but we kind of get to interpret as we wish, too” Bella said. “And we’re acting with all of these people who are really good at what they do. To try to figure out how to use what I’m learning from them to speak in a way that sounds Shakespearian has been fun.”

The girls rehearse daily at home but travel to Vermillion about five times a week. They’ve been working with cast members coming from close to home like South Dakota and Minnesota but also as far away as New York.

“I think it’s interesting because everybody cares so much about what they’re doing,” Natalee said. “Everyone wants to be doing this. I think it’s really cool just to have this level of interaction because sometimes when you’re on stage interacting, if feels so real.”

They encourage others to come out and see the play.

“It’s fascinating to see this community play that’s kind of professional,” Bella said. “I think there’s a lot going on that people will enjoy.”

Sioux Center News Staff