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Arts & Culture

Idaho Shakespeare's 2022 season brings timeless love stories, familiar favorites and a few surprises

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Idaho Shakespeare Festival
The 2022 season will launch with 'Much Ado About Nothing.'

As so many of us reflect on the year that was 2021, there’s even better reason to look forward to 2022 and see what it has to offer, particularly in the arts world. And the Idaho Shakespeare Festival might have the ideal tonic for the soul: Much Ado About Nothing.

“It’s a real exploration of what is the truth, both for us emotionally, but how easily we are deceived by each other in what should be an obvious truth,” said Charlie Fee, ISF production artistic director, who will also direct Much Ado, the festival’s first production of the 2022 season.

Fee visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview the new season, and all of the risks and rewards that his company of artists have navigated this past year.

“The whole company is back together, because that’s where we live … in those rehearsal rooms and in our theaters together.”
Charlie Fee

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. There is one big item left on our To-Do list for 2021, and that is to embrace 2022. To paraphrase the late Stephen Sondheim, we are still here. And as long as we are, we have the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. So let's welcome back a good friend to this program. Charlie Fee is producing artistic director at Idaho Shakespeare Charlie. Good morning.

CHARLES FEE: Good morning, George. Thank you so much and it's great to hear you and thank you especially for bringing in a quote from Stephen Sondheim The great, great Stephen Sondheim. You know, we've done several of the Sondheim productions and we're planning several more in the years to come, and he's really an inspiration to all of us. He's sort of… we often think of him as our contemporary Shakespeare.

PRENTICE: Absolutely: an exploration of themes unimagined, and yet, when realized on the stage, it's as if those stories were always out there waiting for us.

FEE: Yeah. And Sondheim's language, you know, his poetry is so wonderful, accessible, dense, surprising. He's always got the trick rhyme in there, and he's just fantastic. Anyway, glad to hear Sondheim's name this morning. Thank you, George.

PRENTICE: We're here to preview your 2022 season, and it is quite exciting for a number of reasons. The first is the fact that up top will be the wonderful Much Ado About Nothing…which I see you will direct.

FEE: Absolutely. And you know, it's only the second time I've directed Much Ado in my 30 year tenure at Idaho Shakespeare Festival, I did. It was, I think, my third season. I directed Much Ado, and it's really along with Midsummer Night's Dream… Those are my two favorite comedies. We were one week away from opening Much Ado in Cleveland on March 13th of 2020, when everything was shut down.

PRENTICE: Wow, I've been thinking about Much Ado lately and its themes: What is true? What is right? What is light versus darkness? What prevails?  All inside this classic story of love, I also find great relevance.

FEE: It's a really surprising romantic comedy because it's filled with what the kind of darkness in terms of our own behavior toward each other. And as you say, it's a real exploration of what is the truth, both for us emotionally, but how easily we are deceived by each other in what should be an obvious truth.

PRENTICE: Can you talk a little bit about your decision to mount two musicals next season.

FEE: Well, some of it is just the kismet, you know, of COVID. Again, we were planning Ain't Misbehavin in 2020 to follow Much Ado About Nothing and Ain't Misbehavin…the great great musical of Fats Waller's music and the Harlem Renaissance… is a piece we've been really anxious to do, and it's a great moment to do. It's the 100th year anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance, and so of course, we've then been tabling it for two years, right? We thought we were going to get to it last summer. We couldn't, and it comes back and I'm committed to this company. We have the whole company still together for Ain't Misbehavin, and we really decided that we needed to get that up on its feet as soon as we could and back into our theater. So that leaves off our musical season. We often do one of our large cast musicals right in the heart of this season, like Music Man last night, and we'll follow it by a September musical, Million Dollar Quartet or the Plaid shows whatever beehive, et cetera. What's different here is we're putting the two musicals right into the heart of our season, so following aimless behaving will be Little Shop of Horrors, which we haven't been back to since… boy, gosh, I guess it's been at least 15 years, maybe even more. And so two musicals in the heart of our season, so we go Shakespeare, musical, Shakespeare, musical

PRENTICE: And that second Shakespeare is Romeo and Juliet, directed by Sarah Bruner.

FEE: That's right. It's one of the pieces that she was most anxious to get to, in her work now with us, and a piece that she knows extremely well. I mean, she's played Juliet for me twice, three times, actually, and she's played…

PRENTICE: Are we getting that old?

FEE: Yes. You and I are.

PRENTICE: I remember those as if they were yesterday.

FEE: Oh my gosh. I mean, she's she knows that play pretty well, I'd say.

PRENTICE: And then you cap things off in the fall with Thirty Nine Steps, which is a wacky adaptation of the classic that Alfred Hitchcock brought to the screen a few generations ago.

FEE: You know, it's a piece that we did a decade or more ago, and it's a quick change show, which we love, like complete works for actors are going to create, I don't know, 60 characters or some ridiculous thing. It's a piece that, of course, requires a great movement sensibility.

PRENTICE: Charlie, as we prepare to sing and say Auld Lang Syne for this year, how are you doing? How has your professional family been doing? How's everybody?

FEE: Well, thank you, George. I so appreciate that. We're fine. And my family…my real family…my wife, Lydia and my wonderful daughter, Alexa. Everybody's healthy. We've all gotten through this in ways that we're just so grateful and lucky for what we have in our community and what I have with my family. And our larger family… our professional artistic family…this was very difficult for the artists in the company, the actors, particularly because the acting career, even for union actors, it's a gig economy. And when your gig shuts down and there's no other option, right? There was no, you couldn't go anywhere on the globe. Yeah, it was awful. And so, you know, these wonderful company members, we did everything we could to keep them going. We created video projects and paid them for those and some found classes they could teach and others ended up, you know, working at Trader Joe's or delivering Amazon. And what was so difficult for me in that our union. I think understandably, was saying we can't go back on stage, but instead what happened is actors went back into much higher risk environments and many of them got COVID working at a job just to keep food on the table. And it was it was tough. But I will tell you, George, the whole company is back together because that's where we live, you know, in those rehearsal rooms and in our theaters together. And it is a kind of family for sure. And they're there. Everybody's healthy, everybody got through it and we just don't want to repeat it.

PRENTICE: Well, Memorial Day can't come soon enough. So, many thanks for all that you do, and all that you bring. Have a wonderful, warm holiday season and we'll talk soon in the new year.

FEE: Thank you so much, George. You to your family and all of you at our great Boise State Public Radio, a station that means everything to all of us here in the Treasure Mountains, you know, and throughout Idaho. So, thank you, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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