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Arts & Culture

The Stuff That Dreams Are Made On: Idaho Shakespeare Festival Will Return For 2021 Summer Season

Idaho Shakespeare Festival
The 2021 season of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival will launch July 8.

In 2020, just as the Idaho Shakespeare Festival was coming to a halt, the company’s producing artistic director, Charlie Fee, said on Morning Edition, “Think about this … this may be the only time in all of history that every theater in the world is shut.”

But now, the Festival is prepping for its 2021 season – a reset unlike any other.

“We’re going to produce live plays for a live audience,” said Fee. “And we could not be more thrilled and excited.”

Fee joined Morning Edition host George Prentice to detail the 2021 summer schedule and say how excited the company is to return to Idaho’s most famous amphitheater.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on. And our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
The Tempest by William Shakespeare

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning… on a Monday. I’m George Prentice. It was just about a year ago at this time…in a conversation on this program, Charlie Fee, producing artistic director at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, said, “Think about this… this may be the only time in all of history that every theater in the world is shut.” What a year. Charlie Fee is here. Charlie, good morning.

CHARLIE FEE: Good morning, George. It's so good to be back a year later and a whole lot of experience and growth in a lot of ways as well. So… that's just wonderful to be back with you.

PRENTICE: Well, we're thrilled that you're here because it's my understanding you've got some news. So, let's have it.

FEE: Well, we do have news, George; and you probably already know by now. We just announced we are going to open our theater this summer. We're going to produce live plays for a live audience. And we could not be more thrilled and excited. And now, before I go one sentence further, I'm going to do what we call the COVID moment… of crossing your fingers and saying, “Look… things can still go south on us.” Sure. You know, this year has been nothing but a series of steps back and a little inch forward… and then having to retrench and go back again. So, look, we all know that. But I feel extremely confident. My entire team, our staff, our board, all of our artists, we feel super confident about our ability to move forward. And barring something that none of us can foresee at this moment, we're going to have live theater in our amphitheater this summer.

PRENTICE: Ok, let's hear the productions.

Idaho Shakespeare Festival
ISF Producing Artistic Director Charlie Fee

FEE: Well, we're going to open on July 8th. So, we're opening late. And that's because it takes a lot more time to put together the pieces and parts that need to all be in place before you can open live theater for an audience. So, we're opening late. So, I'm going to take the season down in total scale from five plays to three plays. I'm also going to reduce the scale of the productions that we are we are putting on stage… and we can get into why we do that in a minute. Here's the season: We'll open with what should have been the closing of the season. Anthony Schaffer’s diabolical thriller, Sleuth and Sleuth is going to open our season on July 8th and it's going to play July and into August. That will be followed by a brand new production of a Shakespeare title, not the title we had announced for the summer. We've pivoted to Shakespeare's final play, The extraordinarily beautiful…and we'll talk about why this play in a minute…but The Tempest. That will be directed by Sarah Bruner, our associate artistic director. That will play in August and into the beginning of September. And then finally in September, we're going to bring back one of our all-time favorite shows, the entire canon of Shakespeare in two hours with three actors: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged. So, those are our three shows. And you can see that the number of actors in each of these companies has been scaled very purposely because protecting the artists, particularly on stage and backstage, requires having a much smaller company than we normally have. We literally can't put 25 people backstage right now, but we can do The Tempest, which is Shakespeare's smallest cast, and we can do it with 12 actors. And that, for us this summer, will feel like a pageant... a spectacular for us.

PRENTICE: Will they be in repertory? Or will each production have a distinct opening and closing night?

FEE: Yeah, thanks, George. So, we will not be in repertory. And again, that is to protect our artists and production teams during this difficult time with COVID, because when we're wrapping, it requires a whole series of additional procedures in terms of how we treat the stage props, scenic pieces, the number of people involved… turn plays around from day-to-day dressing rooms, shifting companies of actors. It doesn't make sense in the world we live in this summer.

PRENTICE: Let's talk about ticket sales. What is your plan for this month- May - and going forward, what's the plan?

FEE: The plan this month is to take our existing ticket holders…right? And we have 35,000 tickets out right now in people's hands, actually not in their hands, but they've reserved them. And so, we have to begin with that group of existing ticket holders to rebook them. And to say, :Hhey, you bought a five show theater package. Right. You thought you're going to see five plays now you're going to see three plays and we're not.” But to be honest with you, George, were not going to allow our existing ticket holders to use their other play tickets - the fourth and fifth play that they ordered to get even more tickets to these three. We're doing that because we want to make sure that we can get as broad an audience into the theater this summer as possible and have as many potential ways to get you into a seat this summer if you want to see one show or all three,

PRENTICE: How about general ticket sales?

FEE: We hope that will be…that we'll be able to sort everybody out in May, and I'm pretty sure we can. And then we will reopen for new ticket sales, we hope, the very beginning of June. So that's our plan.

PRENTICE: Charlie, I've just got a couple of minutes, but I'm going to put you on the spot. We need a bit of inspiration. Do you have a taste of something… perhaps Shakespeare that you can share with us… in this very particular moment?

FEE: Oh, George, there's so many things we could look at, without question, I mean, you know, instantly the chorus from Henry V comes to mind, right? But, you know, I will say that Shakespeare's almost always at his best when he's talking about dreams and imagination. And we see these fantastic speeches in Henry and in Midsummer Night's Dream. And now we're doing a play called The Tempest. So, I'm going to give you a little bit of Prospero from The Tempest. And this is near the end of the play, very famous speech. And it's about dreams and imagination:

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.”

PRENTICE: Tonic for the soul…on a Monday morning, no less. Charlie Fee is producing artistic director of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. General ticket sales again beginning June. The sun goes down, and the lights come up on. Let's see, July the 8th?

FEE: Yes, July.

PRENTICE: Charlie, thanks so very much. Have a wonderful week. And thanks for giving us some time this morning.

FEE: Thanks so much, my friend.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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