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The Spotlight Shines Again: Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Audiences Poised To Return To Amphitheater

photo of Idaho Shakespeare Festival amphitheater
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
The 2021 season of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival begins Thursday, July 8

It has been nearly two years since audiences filled the amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Indeed, the pandemic darkened nearly every theater on the planet. But cast, crew and the ISF production team are more than just a bit anxious to step back into the spotlight when they launch their much-anticipated 2021 season on Thursday, July 8.

“Considering the state of the world and where we've been and what we've all been through and our own little corners of the world, I anticipate that being a pretty, pretty great moment,” said Jeffrey Hawkins, one of the stars of Sleuth, ISF's first production of the season.

“So many friends have expressed just how they miss going out there, hearing, hearing wonderful language, seeing their favorite actors,” said David Anthony Smith, his co-star. ”We, of course, sorely missed performing. It's a void in our lives.”

Hawkins and Smith visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about their shared anxieties, and some of their favorite memories in the ISF amphitheater.

“Boise has always had a big piece of my heart. When I leave here, I take a lot of Boise with me.”
Jeffrey Hawkins

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. The sun goes down, and the lights come up on the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in a much-anticipated return July 8th. And the first show is a firecracker: it will be. Sleuth. David Anthony Smith and Jeffrey Hawkins are here. David Anthony Smith - 20 years at Idaho Shakespeare, among other things. We have thrilled at his Iago in Othello, in the title role in Henry V, at a lot of those “O’s,” not the least of which was Romeo. Jeffrey Hawkins - from New York to Tahoe and everywhere in between. Jeffrey Hawkins says this is his umpteenth year with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. David. Jeff, good morning.

DAVID ANTHONY SMITH: Thanks for having us, George.

PRENTICE: Up top, I've got to ask you about the anxiety, the anticipation about getting up in front of what will certainly be a sold out amphitheater… and it will probably transcend the art form. Or do you just want to get out there and do this?

JEFFREY HAWKINS: David and I have talked about this. We've been suspended since, like the rest of the world, since March of 2020. We have thought about what it may be like to return. It's fairly emotional to think about. I hope it is as warm and welcoming and I know Boise audiences have always been incredible with their warmth. And considering the state of the world and where we've been and what we've all been through and our own little corners of the world, I anticipate that being a pretty, pretty great moment.

SMITH: It has just been an incredible void for the community, I feel. And so many friends have expressed just how they miss going out there, hearing, hearing wonderful language, seeing their favorite actors. We, of course, sorely missed performing. It's a void in our lives. I felt that, you know, a little bit of stagnation, some depression this 15 months. So to be able to reexamine this production and its amazing cast of five actors and to perform it for the Boise audience is what I what I was really looking forward to it. I love the audiences here so much. We feel so much love from them. So we are thrilled to be reopening here. George.

PRENTICE: Jeffrey, I'm sensing some emotions... mostly good ones.

HAWKINS: I think it was yesterday, David, when I said in rehearsal or the day before maybe that “Boise has always had a big piece of my heart. When I leave here, I take a lot of Boise with me.” Actually, my first show here was in 1998, opening the new amphitheater in that production of Midsummer, and that that itself was magical. I love me, the 208. And it's a real joy to come back after all these circumstances and after all these months to do a show here. Again, during the course of this pandemic, we've lost a couple of company members. It is emotional, but it's a very… it's a happy homecoming, but it's it is weighted with the perspective of the world as it has been.

PRENTICE: David, let's talk about Sleuth, without giving anything away. The cliche is “rhythm,” but indeed, there are very specific beats and tempos and even a cadence, when you find that rhythm with Jeffrey, I don't pretend to know your profession, but you really can't freeze that, because every night is just naturally different, and you just find a different way to dance, so to speak.

photo of Sleuth at Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Roger Mastroianni/Roger Mastroianni
Photo by Roger Mastroianni, Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Jeffrey Hawks (left) and D.A. Smith (right) co-star in Sleuth

SMITH: Oh, of course. If you're really in the moment and you're really listening to someone and you're trying to…I mean, that's the great challenge of acting, isn't it? There's an expression: ”The secret to great acting is honesty on stage. Once you can fake that, you've got it made.” So, there is an artifice to that. But I mean, our goal as actors is to say these lines and be in these situations as if it has never been said or happened to us before. And it's an incredible challenge because it's an artifice. Obviously, I know what Jeffrey's going to say and he knows what I'm going to say, but we sure have to make it sound as if it's being done for the first time. And to riff with Jeffrey and the other members of the cast is just to always keeps you on your toes. And I was just telling Jeffrey, when we arrived at rehearsal, “At this particular point on the play here, the last couple of rehearsals, I've not been listening to you and I apologize and I'm going to do my best to try to listen to you.” So it happens, especially when you're reexamining the play and relearning this after 15 months… but yeah, they're incredible different rhythms in the play, George. I mean, it is a play about game playing and revenge to some degree. But, yeah, we always have to be on our toes. And I couldn't ask for better cast members to do that with

HAWKINS: D.A. is right. I mean, it's the easiest thing and the hardest thing in the world just to talk and listen. D.A. laughs that he was apologizing to me earlier today. But the truth is, I wasn't listening when he was talking to me. Now, it's the easiest and the hardest thing in the world to look like a real human saying real things and really listening. Then you mix in some great language. You mix in some complicated language. You mix in words we don't often hear, terms we don't often utter. And it gets layered. You know, I agree, D.A., Lynn, Nick, Alled…they're just terrific, terrific people. There are some great artists working on the costumes… and certainly Charlie Fee's direction. The rhythm of this play is fantastic. And it's a great challenge to try and meet that dance every night.

PRENTICE: I can't wait to see the set because indeed, that's a character in of itself.

SMITH: It is. Gage Williams, who I know you know, George… has designed out here for around 25, years. He's just wonderful. And we actually have three levels of the set, which is very unusual for a production here. So we actually have a level below where I actually get to come up from just below the stage level, which really gives it a wonderful extra dimension to it. And it's just a set designer’s dream.

PRENTICE: I've lost count of how many crazy things I've seen on the stage… unexpected things. I guess my favorite was when a peacock landed on the stage in the middle of The Crucible.

HAWKINS: I don't even remember that.

PRENTICE: Oh golly. Yeah. Oh…and it was a peacock of all things. I have to assume that each of you has a rolodex of memories and experiences from all the productions you've done here.

SMITH: Oh, just a blast. The outdoor element, of course…maybe having to wait for a plane. We've had some horrendous weather conditions. I remember doing An Ideal Husband; and Sarah Bruner's character… when I came out, she said, “We can talk about anything you like, except… and I went, “The weather!” And then there was a skunk on stage one night… it got right in the front row. And I weaved it into the dialogue. And then helicopters… and Jeffrey, you were doing a production when the fire helicopters were dipping water out of the river.

HAWKINS: I was coming back to that show after being in the hospital with heat exhaustion. So, I may not have remembered everything that happened in that show. And there’s one weather related that I really loved on the stage. This is back when Bart Sherr directed Titus Andronicus and I was playing his son. And there were other siblings there. And it's just at the point where Titus, without one of his hands, gets us all in on our knees, making a vow over his sword, I believe it was… or maybe his bloody stump that we are going to get revenge. And as he's doing that, te rain is coming down on our faces. And as soon as we make the vow to get revenge, a lightning strikes right over his head. And I thought, “Oh, man, I wish there was a camera in my eyeballs for that moment,” because that was that was a hell of a scene.

SMITH: Force majeure,

PRENTICE: The first performance is Thursday, July 8th. Opening night is Saturday, July 10th. Gentlemen, the worst kept secret in this town is how much of a fan I am of the two of you in particular, and the company in general. And they are David Anthony Smith and Jeffrey Hawkins, and they are about to bring us all back to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for Sleuth. This is going to be quite a night. Gentlemen, thanks so very much.

HAWKINS: Thank you so much, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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