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Idaho Shakespeare just unveiled its 2024 season on Morning Edition

Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Idaho Shakespeare Festival

To be sure, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival mounts classic center-stage. But there are many elements of the 2024 season, announced Wednesday on Morning Edition, that are very new: from a stage adaptation of Agatha Christie’s "Murder on the Orient Express," to a contemporary spin on William Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream."

“It's really exciting to see how the designers and Charlie [Fee] are approaching this right now, because it allows us to really ramp up that notion of using our imaginations in order to execute things that are seemingly impossible.”

Sara Bruner, associate artistic producing director at ISF, visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to preview the season.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Hi. I'm George Prentice. Well, here we are. November 1st. A big change in the season. Of course, later this month we kick off the holiday season much to celebrate all about surprises. So, this morning, our first big surprise is the official unveiling of our next summer season at the amphitheater at Idaho Shakespeare Festival. So here comes the amazing Sara Bruner, associate artistic director of Idaho Shakespeare. Hi, Sarah.

SARA BRUNER: Hello, George.

PRENTICE: So here it is. Unwrap this for us. Give us the rundown. Here we go.

BRUNER: All right. Here is the rundown for the season. We're really, really excited about it. Had a great season last year, and I think next season will be even more exciting and thrilling for our audience members. Opening our season, we have The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare, and that is going to be directed by a director who's new to our company. Her name is Terry McMahon. After that, we have Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. Directed by Charles Fee, our producing artistic director. And after that, we have Into the Woods, which we last produced in 2008. It's one of Sondheim's masterpieces. We've been wanting to get back to Sondheim ever since he passed away, to just honor him and revisit his gorgeous work that will be directed by Victoria Bussert. And on the heels of that, we have William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I'll be directing that. And the little plot twist here is that this Midsummer Night's Dream is translated think adapted by Jeff Whitty, who wrote Avenue Q. Fantastic writer. A modern day bard. And he has a modern day verse translation of this piece that is a beautiful mix of Shakespeare and witty. It contemporizing the piece and makes it easier on the ears, but you don't lose any of the music of the poetry, and some may not even notice the difference, frankly. So very excited about that production. That's in partnership with Play on Shakespeare, which maybe we can talk a little bit more about. And then rounding out the season, we have Always Patsy Cline, which is also directed by Victoria Bussert. And that is the story of Patsy Cline and a woman named Louise, who became a super fan and a friend through exchanging letters with Patsy. And it's about their friendship and, of course, Patsy Cline's music.

PRENTICE: Talk to me about… you said "Play on Shakespeare?"

BRUNER: Play on Shakespeare. It is an initiative that started a few years ago, and it was actually born at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. A donor whose name is Dave Hitz has a foundation, and he came to them and said, you know, I love these Shakespeare plays, and I see everything all the time, but I still find myself not understanding them as much as I want to. Let me give you a bunch of money. And why don't you hire the best playwrights in America to translate these for our modern ears, so that we can understand the jokes from our modern sensibilities so that we can follow the poetry, the plot, more succinctly, and so that as audience members, we don't lose the poetry, but we can sit back a little bit more and enjoy these performances with ease of understanding. We are one of the first companies to be producing this on a large scale, so it puts us on the map nationally as a company, which I'm very excited about. They have been very generous. They are helping us to produce this financially. It's one of the largest gifts we've ever received. It came to us as an artistic endeavor, first off, and then grew into something that also really just helped out the company. When we look at our bottom line at a time when we're still all recovering from COVIC, so it's a win- win for our company in so many ways. Here, let me tell you the other exciting thing about it, George, is that we are running it on the same set as Into the Woods. So this was originally conceived as our dream woods pairing. So it's two stories that are really different, equally beautiful, magical, told in the same space with many of the same actors in that end of season slot. So it's very exciting.

PRENTICE: Well, I have to talk about Into the Woods. I have to tell you, just the other night I was revisiting the cast album, the No One Is Alone song near the end, and the line, sometime people leave you halfway through the wood, and all of a sudden. I was a puddle of tears because I was thinking about what the pandemic did to us and about all the people who unexpectedly left us halfway through the wood. Wow, what a perfect timing for this.

BRUNER: That piece is… I think it will always be enduring, but there are moments where it seems even more appropriate. Certainly. The last time I listened to the album all the way through was right after Stephen Sondheim passed away, and so much of that story is about relationships and communities, and particularly relationships with parents and children, and what he's left us with and is very much what Into the Woods leaves us with, which is a sense of how beautiful and how hard it is to be alive at the same time, but that the one is sort of dependent on the other.

PRENTICE: And what a rare space to go to a show with your kids, many of whom will see a live production for the first time, and they will look at it through a very different lens.

BRUNER: Yeah, absolutely. It's definitely one of those. And I think a lot of the Shakespeare plays are like this too, where they're so satisfying to revisit because as we mature, the play seems fresh to us. You know, every ten years you can see the same play, but every ten years you have ten more years of life and experience and loss and joy. And the plays can be transformative all over again.

PRENTICE: I'm looking through the season, and I see that Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. and Agatha Christie… there's a little bit of a mini renaissance going on, but to put this on a stage, I'm wondering how you're going to do this.

BRUNER: Oh my goodness, I can't tell you. We've already I've been observing this design process from a distance, and it's one of those that will definitely demand high theatricality because of the numerous locations, because of the movement, because of the sense of moving from train car to train car. So it's really exciting to see how the designers and Charlie are approaching this right now, because it allows us to really ramp up that notion of using our imaginations in order to execute things that are seemingly impossible. These things are simple in film. They're expensive, but they're a whole heck of a lot easier than they are when you're in broad daylight in Boise, Idaho, at the heat of the summer. Right. But that's part of why we love what we do. I think it's why theater remains exciting is because we do like to play ball within those tight parameters.

PRENTICE: And Sara Bruner is associate artistic director at Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Thank you for celebrating with us this morning and unwrapping our first gift of the holiday season. How exciting.

BRUNER: Thank you so much for having me, George.

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