Postcard from Frankfort, Michigan

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Aug 15, 2011 / 1 comments

Every year, in late summer, the beaches and woods around Frankfort, Michigan become enchanted. While they are always beautiful, with fat, glowing sunsets over Lake Michigan - and quiet, the woods alive with peepers and crickets - in late summer, magic happens.

The hills and wide, flat grounds of the Old Ice Rink are transformed by a hanging sign, a plethora of plywood, the artistic efforts of the Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre, and a group of kids who believe. They believe in Shakespeare, magic, creativity, learning, swordplay, gryphons, dragons, and yes, fairies.

The Lakeside Shakespeare Company just finished its 8th season, in the tiny hamlet of Frankfort - the only location in which they perform. Consisting of Chicago-based professional actors, Lakeside Shakespeare performs two shows (alternating nights) for two weeks each year. Frankfort is located off US 31 -  in Benzonia, jaunt to the left (towards the lake) at the light just past the public library on your right. Once on Highway 115, head toward the big lake for about 9 miles - you'll be welcomed by a big white gate over the road, complete with an ore ship replica atop, and green and red lights aft and stern. Keep going a few blocks - at the blinking light, you can turn right to find the Old Ice Rink (and all of the Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre glory), or left and over a block to hit the main street.

Frankfort is the kind of town where people help strangers, where in the summer every seat in the the library is filled with people and their laptops, where ice cream is sold in more than one shop in a just few blocks, where parking at the beach on Lake Michigan is free. It's the kind of town that can support a burger joint as well as Fusion, my favorite Asian eatery in northwest Michigan.  Frankfort is where, year after year, kids can be KIDS - running, playing, swimming, chasing waves, ice cream dripping, wearing tshirts from Sleeping Bear Dunes, and catching fireflies late at night. It's the kind of town where summer visitors return year after year, to the same campsite, cottage, hotel, B&B, and build their own traditions.

Which is what the founder of the Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre, Elizabeth Laidlaw, remembers. Summering there, growing up - and now, she brings theater, learning, joy (and fairies) to the kids that flock to Frankfort in the summer, too. At Shakespeare camp,  theater parents sit in folding chairs every day(moving them to follow the shade), talking and learning and sharing lives and adventures. The kids do exercises, think, learn acting, create, bring their imaginations and hard work.


Come performance night, Friday night, we've rounded up costumes (from cottages and campgrounds alike), one of the moms paints faces, the kids practice their lines, the number of fairy wings explodes exponentially (as do the swords).


And the joy and earnestness on these young actors' faces during the performance...Shakespeare would have been proud. The parents and beloved theater teachers are. After the Shakespeare Camp play, the fairies congregate on blankets near the stage, on call for their performance in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Queen Titania is positively swarmed by fairies. Even Nick Bottom, the weaver-turned-donkey, remarks at the quantity of fairies. And as dusk draws nigh, on this last night of Lakeside Shakespeare, the fairies disappear into the woods - until next year.









Learn more:

Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre's Summer Camp for Kids




Comments (1)

  • Betty Jo Riggs

    12 years 10 months ago

    Jesse, you've introduced me to something I didn't know existed right here in my own back yard.  Will would be pleased to have his fairies flit in Frankfort--as would anyone!

    Betty Jo Riggs

    Co-Editor, Retiree Travel

Leave a comment