Undergraduate students in Mathematical Modeling for Teachers created models to address the  summer traveling schedule of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks. This work was completed during Fall 2017, with results reported to the Shakespeare in the Parks team at a symposium on December 14, 2017. The models and reports presented are listed here, with individual authors credited.

Course instructor: Elizabeth Arnold, Ph.D.

Co-instructor: Elizabeth Burroughs, Ph.D.


Montana Shakespeare in the Parks (MSIP) is the only fully professional touring theatre program in the state currently producing Shakespeare’s plays, the only Shakespeare company in the country to reach as extensively into rural areas and the only company in the state that offers its performances free to the public, guaranteeing accessibility to all. MSIP travels to 61 communities every summer with 75 performances throughout MT, northern Wyoming, eastern Idaho, western North Dakota and eastern Washington with an emphasis on underserved, rural areas. Over 45% of the communities served by MSIP have a population of less than 2,000 and nearly 85% have less than 10,000. Since 1973, the summer touring program has presented over 2,150 performances to nearly three-quarters of a million people. MSIP is a nationally recognized outreach program of the College of Arts and Architecture at Montana State University.

 Shakespeare in the Parks (in its 46th season) employs 10 actors for a 15-week summer session that includes rehearsals and a multi-state tour in Montana, northern Wyoming, Eastern Idaho, western North Dakota and eastern Washington. Two plays rehearse for five weeks starting in late May and then tour the region for a ten-week period ending in early September.

Modeling Problems

 Problem 1. Summer Tour Schedule

In 2017, the company traveled over 7,700 miles during the season. The entire company drives to the different locations and from a company perspective, this can be expensive and time consuming. For instance, one year in a span of three shows, the company traveled from Townsend, MT to Laurel, MT and then back to Chico Hot Springs. The maximum distance the tour should drive between any two shows is 200 miles, and shorter drives are a goal. However, there are instances where MSIP needs to be in certain locations at particular times (e.g., Bozeman for the Sweet Pea Festival).

 “There are a few set dates:

  • The first eight shows will be at MSU Duck Pond
  • The next 5 have been the same for the past few years: Hobson-Utica, Lewistown, Conrad, Malta, Wolf Point. Generally, most of the dates stay the same with a tiny movement earlier and later, especially at the beginning of the summer.
  • Sweet Pea 2018 will be the first weekend in August again.
  • Missoula and Big Sky are typically in the last week.

All that being said, dates can always change, so there is some flexibility!” – MSIP Staff

Create a more optimal schedule, taking into account various factors and constraints.

 “The mileage problem is something we are always trying to work on, though that is the hardest aspect to change due to the towns' date selection. We haven't started booking the tour yet, so your input could be very helpful!” – MSIP Staff

  • Solution 1. Johnson & Vavruska. Propose a new route that untangles some past routes, to spend less time on the road and reduce total mileage traveled. 
  • Solution 2. Brown & Conn. Propose a new route to untangle three main loops that contribute excess mileage; suggest beginning the tour in Idaho/Kalispell/Missoula to avoid poor August air quality in western Montana.
  • Solution 3. Daubert & Humberger. Propose a new tour schedule that minimizes distance to save fuel costs.

Problem 2. Patterns of Attendance

In 2017, the company performed two different plays: Macbeth (tragedy) and You Never Can Tell (comedy). MSIP recognizes that more people attend comedies over tragedies, but the company considers it an important part of their outreach mission to include the two types of plays each year Yet, there are other factors which influence attendance. For example, in the past, shows have been cancelled due to the weather and smoke. Your task is to investigate the patterns of attendance and how they relate to various factors and constraints. Provide recommendations for the upcoming season that can help MSIP achieve its mission of exposing audiences to these shows.

 The patterns of attendance will be very interesting as well, and I'd definitely suggest taking weather/smoke into account.” – MSIP Staff

  • Solution 1. Cleaver & Otis. Recommendations include moving performances in smaller cities to later in the season, because those crowds will be easier to relocate indoors in the event of air quality issues; using late season for some eastern Montana performances because of lower historical incidence of fire issues in late season in eastern Montana.
  • Solution 2. Delwo & Kain. Recommendations include adding West Glacier, St. Mary, Baker, and Broadus as potential sites that will draw an audience; consider taking into account county and state fairs and trying to coincide performances with the increased populations during those times.