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Royal Oak

Shakespeare returns to Starr Jaycee Park

August 5, 2013

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Kevin Barron, from Detroit, portrays Slender from William Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor” during this year’s Shakespeare in the Park at Royal Oak’s Starr Jaycee Park Aug. 1. Water Works Theatre Company has been putting on plays in the park for 13 years.
During opening night Aug. 1, Judge Derek Meinecke of the 44th District Court stabs Water Works Theatre Company founder and Executive Director Ed Nahhat, an attorney who ran against Meinecke last year for judge of the court. Nahhat said they like to have a surprise for the audience on opening night of Shakespeare in the Park.

ROYAL OAK — After 13 years, annual visitors to Water Works Theatre Company’s Shakespeare in the Park have learned to expect something special during the opening night ceremony in Starr Jaycee Park.

But it is unlikely any of them predicted that, on Aug. 1, they would see Judge Derek Meinecke, of 44th District Court, standing with a sword brandished over Ed Nahhat, the executive director and founder of Water Works.

In November, Meinecke and Nahhat, also an attorney, were foes fighting for votes to become the district court’s judge.

Meinecke defeated Nahhat then, just as he did onstage during a mock sword fight prior to the premiere of the Shakespeare comedy, “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“The Free Press endorsed this guy?” Meinecke joked just before stabbing — theatrically — his former political opponent.

For 13 years, Water Works has performed different Shakespeare plays at one of Royal Oak’s largest parks. This year, Water Works will be putting on “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and a family-friendly, hour-long portrayal of “Much Ado About Nothing” through Aug. 11. 

Meinecke said that Shakespeare in the Park encourages children, including his son,  to get involved in the arts.

Last year, at this time, Meinecke and his son were watching Water Works put on “Henry V.” He said watching the performance encouraged his son to try out for a school play.

“He got the lead and had an incredible experience,” Meinecke said.

The wooded park presents a unique experience in which to see a play and act in it. Actor Peter Prouty, who lives in Royal Oak and plays Mr. Ford in “Merry Wives of Windsor,” can attest to that. Prouty said the biggest difference between performing in Jaycee Park and in a theater is the need for mosquito repellent. A mosquito bit him during his Aug. 1 performance, but the show must go on.

“I don’t ignore distractions,” Prouty, who’s been acting since 1993, said via email. “Even in a character, you’re still a real person. If you itch, you’ve got to scratch.”

While the venue may be unique, Shakespeare’s plays have been rehashed and retackled on both Broadway and film, creating another challenge for the actors in keeping their roles fresh.

Kevin Barron, who plays Slender, said his approach toward keeping Shakespeare fresh is to never allow his character to stop growing.

“The key to staying unique, especially in a show like this one, is to keep having fun,” Barron, who lives in Detroit and has been acting for seven years, said in an email. “If you are having fun, your audience will have fun.”

Sean Paraventi, from Redford, who plays Shallow, finds what traits he personally shares with each Shakespeare character he portrays, and in doing so, provides a uniqueness to the role.

“I just try to find what I have in common with the character and play him my own way,” he said.

Both “Merry Wives of Windsor” and “Much Ado About Nothing” will run through Aug. 11. Showtimes can be found at

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