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Where there’s a Will, there’s a Shakespeare — in Sun Valley

Shakespeare in Park.jpg
Laughing Stock Theater
A Midsummer Night's Dream, produced by Sun Valley Shakespeare in the Park, opens Friday, August 19.

When the pandemic sidelined the Sun Valley Shakespeare in the Park troupe, the creative force behind the annual event was afraid that it might “fizzle out.”

“And so, I felt like, you know what? I don't want it to fizzle out from that virus, “ said Patsy Wygle, founder of Laughing Stock Theater, the nonprofit arts organization behind Sun Valley Shakespeare in the Park. “So, let's go big and bring it back.”

Just before the sun goes down and the lights come up on the company’s biggest production to date, Wyble visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview the show and talk about their heightened level of excitement.

“I think part of it is that everybody missed theater for a couple of years here and everywhere.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning, I’m George Prentice. After a two-year hiatus due to… well, you know what… Laughing Stock Theater’s Sun Valley Shakespeare in the Park is back, beginning this evening. Patsy Wygle is here. She founded Laughing Stock Theater…how is this possible? … in 1977. Patsy, good morning.

PATRICIA WYGLE: Good morning.

PRENTICE: Congratulations. You’re producing A Midsummer Night's Dream, right?

WYGLE: Yes. The third time we've done it, but the last time was 2010.

PRENTICE: I think even a casual observer has seen a performance or two of this show in some form. Can I ask what your setting will be?

WYGLE: This time the director chose to do it in Athens. So yes…it’s the Emperor's time.

PRENTICE: And I am looking at some of the particulars of your creative team for this production. This is a whole new level for Sun Valley Shakespeare in the Park. .

WYGLE: Yes. You know, it's funny, but we barely survived COVID. We could survive because our overhead was so low since we don't have to rent the park year-round. But we were a little worried. My sister Kathy, who actually started Laughing Stock…well, we started it together, but I moved to New York for 30 years and took a little hiatus. Anyway, she kind of lost interest over COVID you know, it was a tough time. And so, I felt like, you know what?, I don't want it to fizzle out from just that virus, so let's go big and bring it back. And we have so many, as you guys do in Boise as well, so many new, new faces around here and in town. And I scheduled it for right after the symphony closes. And I just it was kind of go big or go home. So, we kind of put all our chips on the table. And first time we've ever hired an out-of-town set designer and she's award winning. And she did a set out here for a Sam Hunter play last summer that was outside. And that's how I knew of her. But I think she's just amazing. She's young, upcoming, and just took a whole different take on things.

PRENTICE: The pool of talent is already pretty deep in the Wood River Valley. And you're adding to that, right?

WYGLE: Well, part of it is that every theater company in town is actually doing a show these next two weeks, which is a little uncanny. But, you know, there's a lot of excellent actors up here, as you know. But, you know, the pool was got a little thin when everybody was working on their own stuff. So, we've always because Shakespeare, you know, I have to say, to find 13 or 15 professional actors up here is not easy at any time. So, we've always brought in a few people, but this year we brought in six and two. Actually, three of them have worked with us before. And they were just so delightful and talented that we brought them back.

PRENTICE: So talk to me a little bit about the rehearsals. Can I assume that there is a heightened level of excitement?

WYGLE: Yeah, absolutely. It's fun now because we're just starting to move into the park as of last weekend. And so, you know, people are strolling through and….”What is this?” And, you know, so that that's been really fun. And just I said there's a different buzz. I think part of it is that everybody missed theater for a couple of years here and everywhere. So, you know, people that have lived here for 20 years and say, “I didn't realize you did outdoor Shakespeare.” So that excitement brings it up for everybody. And then our costumer is out of Portland. We've worked with her for a couple of years and she's brilliant, too. You know, she uses a lot of recycled material and baskets for hats and just very clever costuming.

PRENTICE: When I look through the notes, ……is it possible? 21 years in the park?

WYGLE: Yes. Isn't that amazing? Actually, in 2007 and eight, the City of Sun Valley requested that we move it up to the five-acre field, their Festival Field, I think they call it. So, we did two years up there, one of which was we did Much Ado. Two years in a row because the first year we got smoked out with the Castle Rock Fire. Yeah. So and we had to, we did one performance and had to close and so we brought that back the next year. But I have to say, the ambiance in the Forest Service Park, the trees, the setting is just so beautiful. But the field didn't really have any built-in shade. We brought in shade barriers, but it's not the same as sitting under a tree. So. So we moved it back to to the Forest Service.

PRENTICE: Blankets? Picnic baskets?

WYGLE: All of the above. We don't sell any food there, but there is wine available, and people can bring blankets, low chairs, just all a symphony. We also bring in one set of bleachers that the city no longer loans things, but we got kind of grandfathered into this. So, and that goes away in the back so that we can have more people and they can sit on a higher chair if they want to. So, we're expecting probably at least the last time we did it, I would say we probably had about 70 people a night back in 19. I think there are several nights we've already sold 100 tickets to and that's we'll probably cut it off about there because the way the park is set up, if you get too far out, you're not going to have a good, good view.

PRENTICE: Fingers and toes crossed… the forecast looks great. So, let's get the particulars here. Forest Service Park, I'm assuming what, 6 p.m.? What time is your show?

WYGLE: Yep. Six. And we keep it to 2 hours. so it's 6 to 8.

PRENTICE: And the dates are August 19 through 21st, which is to say this weekend; and the 23rd through the 27th.  It sounds as if it's the hottest ticket in town. Have a wonderful time. Great good luck with this. And thank so much for giving us some time this morning.

WYGLE: Thank you. A pleasure to talk with you.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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