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Amanda Fuller has acted in Shakespeare in the Park in New York. She's done Shakespeare in a parking lot, also in the Big Apple. Now, she's producing Shakespeare at a cidery in Minneapolis.

Fuller is founder and producing artistic director of the new Gray Mallard Theater Company, dedicated to staging free Shakespearean plays outdoors in the Twin Cities. Its inaugural production, "Richard III," about the murderous king whose victims include a pair of sweet children, kicks off Thursday at Sociable Cider Werks in northeast Minneapolis.

"Going to the theater is supposed to be joyful and fun and if that means that we as performers have to deal with someone walking by and yelling at us, or kids running up to the stage, I want to embrace all of that life," said Fuller. "If I could speak for the Bard himself, my mission is to reach the common people."

Although it's the first show for Gray Mallard, Fuller is not a newbie to the theater scene. In fact, she has been steeped in theater since she was in diapers. Her parents are Nathaniel and Cathleen Fuller, both respected Twin Cities actors. Nathaniel has played Scrooge, Marley and Richard III, among a host of leading roles at the Guthrie in a career that stretches three-plus decades. Cathleen, similarly, has trotted the boards across the Twin Cities, including leading roles at the Jungle and Park Square. And Amanda has been a child actor in "A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie.

"It's hard to want to do anything but theater when you grow up backstage with all of these interesting people," said Amanda. "You see them backstage, and that's one thing. Then you see them onstage and it's like, wow."

After graduating from the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA program in 2007, Amanda moved to New York, earning an MFA in acting from the New School. She spent a decade on the East Coast, and was part of the ensemble of "Julius Caesar" in Central Park. She also spent several seasons with the New York-based Drilling Company, for which she played Lady Macbeth in an outdoor production at Bryant Park. And she performed with fellow Guthrie BFA alums in Shakespeare on the Cape in Massachusetts.

She moved back to the Twin Cities in 2018.

"I was looking for a way to focus my life beyond day-to-day survival," said Amanda. "My parents are here. I love the theater here. It was an obvious choice."

The idea for founding a company came during one of the family's favorite pleasures during the pandemic — a walk around Lake Harriet to escape the COVID lockdown.

"She said, 'I'd like to do Shakespeare at the pub, then the wheels were in motion," recalled her mother Cathleen. "She did inform me that she was in charge, and I didn't have to worry about anything except learning my lines. I have been surprised about all the things I'm learning about my daughter."

The production is Shakespeare as family affair. Cathleen plays several roles in the show, for which she also sewed costumes. Nathaniel has built sets, acts as a gofer and is the company's COVID safety manager. Amanda does fundraising, marketing, contracts and everything else.

Importantly, Amanda said, the actors are being paid. The company has a contract with Actors' Equity, the union of professional actors. It's all for the cause they deeply believe in. Shakespeare wrote for regular folks, not just the hoi polloi, Amanda said. Free outdoor Shakespeare returns the Bard back to his roots.

"Richard III" may not seem like the obvious choice with which to launch a company, but the show resonates with the zeitgeist.

"How far are you willing to follow a leader in a position like Richard before you realize that he has gone too far?" said Amanda. "Is it when he kills Clarence or the children or what? If we do our job right, the parallels are clear without having to put Richard in a Trump costume."

The idea for this Shakespearean tragedy also springs from Amanda's subconscious. In 1988, when she was 3, her father played the wicked king at the Guthrie. The Fullers took Amanda to a matinee.

Nathaniel remembers that when the family went backstage, Amanda saw the chopped-off head of Hastings, and was fascinated by the whole thing.

"I explained to her that Richard had Hastings killed," Nathaniel said.

After the performance, the family went out to dinner, with Amanda sitting in her booster chair.

"Off to the side there was a woman reading a book by herself in the booth," recalled Nathaniel. "Then Amanda asked, 'Why did Richard have Lord Hastings killed?' This woman was totally startled."

He added: "This play was meant to be."

'Richard III'
When: 6 p.m. Thu. & Fri., 4 p.m. Sun. Ends July 24.
Where: Sociable Cider Werks, 1500 NE. Fillmore St., Mpls.
Tickets: Free.