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Archive for August, 2010

Idaho Shakespeare Festival expands its scope and deepens its roots

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

By Dana Oland, Treasure Magazine- doland@idahostatesman.com

Published 8/13/10

A hot breeze wafts through as trees rustle and flowers sway. Eagles soar overhead; the river hurries past. This is not your typical night at the theater.

You're at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, where the fare on stage this season includes Shakespearean comedy and tragedy, a batty rock-musical and a spine-tingling thriller, and is served up in the fun, casual atmosphere of a family picnic.

From its inspired origins in Downtown Boise in the 1970s to today's state-of-the-art amphitheater, it is as much a part of Boise's summer culture as floating the Boise River and mountain biking the Boise Foothills.

“I've lived away from Boise for six years now,” says Kelly Bell, 29, who recently moved back to Boise after living in Boston.

“When I came back in the summers, I (would) run the river and go to the Shakespeare festival,” Bell says. “That's my Boise agenda.”

Shakespeare might seem an unlikely Idaho denizen, but his spirit and work have been alive and well in Boise for 34 years.

The Idaho Shakespeare Festival has survived changing venues and artistic leadership, rocky creative spurts and occasional financial woes.Today, it flourishes under producing artistic director Charles Fee and managing director Mark Hofflund and is one of the state's most high-profile arts organizations. Through innovative strategic alliances, it now puts its actors and artists on three stages nationally, while never forgetting its Idaho roots. ISF has expanded its reach, and it also has deepened its Boise roots.

“People in the other cities all think of it as a Boise company,” Fee says.

In publications such as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the festival receives national notice for the caliber of its productions and for its innovative eight-year partnership with Cleveland's Great Lakes Theater Festival.

Now Fee has added the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival to the mix, where his “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” is in production through Aug. 22. The show was built in Cleveland and rehearsed in Boise.

“Who could have foreseen this stuff?” Fee asks. A tall man with expressive gestures, he relaxes in his office swivel chair between meetings, while answering e-mails from Cleveland. This actor and director turned impresario now casts, plans and raises funds for a theatrical trio.

'GOOD LORD, FOR ALLIANCE!'

The Great Lakes Theater Festival board approached Fee in 2001 to take on the financially struggling now 40-year-old Cleveland company, which at the time had a budget nearly double that of ISF.

Immediately, Fee saw the opportunity. Read more

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Q&A with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's Lina Chambers

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Lina Chambers, Eduardo Placer*, Katie Willmorth, An Ideal Husband

By Dana Oland- doland@idahoshakespeare.org

Published 8/15/10

When Lina Chambers opened the e-mail from ISF artistic director Charlie Fee telling her she was cast in the Idaho Shakespeare Festival's “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” she did a little dance.

“I remember I screamed,” says the tall, willowy blonde. “I've got it saved in my in-box. I'll probably frame it.”

After a childhood spent studying theater in the festival's drama school, Chambers, 22, is now an official member of the ISF repertory company.

In addition to her debut as Helena in this season's production of “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” she also has a small but fun role as the Countess of Basildon in Oscar Wilde's “An Ideal Husband.”

Chambers, the daughter of two artists, Michael and Melissa Chambers, moved to Boise with her family when she was 3.

Except for a couple of years spent in Illinois during high school, the family has called Boise home.

(They moved back in 2005, the summer Lina did the festival's apprentice program for the first time.)

Chambers is a product of ISF's training program.

She started in the festival's drama school as a kid. She took classes, did the intensive workshops and the apprentice program twice.

She also taught in the school, worked in the Young Company (the next step after apprentice) and performed “Midsummer” for the festival's educational tour Shakespearience in 2008.

Transitioning to the professional company seemed a natural, she says.

“I've felt part of this company for a long time,” she says. “I've been on every rung of the ladder.”

Last spring, Chambers opened “Midsummer” in Cleveland, but bringing the role to Boise was extremely special.

“It's like all the pieces had come into place,” she says. “It's been such an honor working with all these people who have been my heroes since I was a kid.”

Chambers is headed into her final year in Boise State University's theater department, which actually is her fifth year.

She took spring semesters off over the past two years to do theater. She'll graduate in 2011 if she doesn't pick up any more acting jobs between now and then. The next step is graduate school. Yale University would be her dream.

Q: Can you put into words the feeling of opening “Midsummer” in Boise?

A: I was so much more nervous about performing in Boise than I ever was in Cleveland. It's pretty nerve- wracking knowing that there's going to be at least one person in the audience who's known me since I was an itty-bitty. Read more

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‘Othello’ is a moving must-see

Monday, August 16th, 2010

By Gracy Howard ghoward@idahopress.com | 0 comments

BOISE — Shakespeare’s “Othello” is one of his most moving tragedies; it tells a poignant story of love, insecurity, and the poisonous influence of jealousy. As performed by the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the play’s depth and beauty create a heartrending performance.

The beautifully crafted monologues, impressive modern sets and clever insertion of music made ISF’s performance both gripping and chilling. As the play drew to its close, its audience was spellbound and gripped with tension as they watched the action unfold. Few performances could deliver a tale so heartbreaking and eery with as much gravity and beauty, yet ISF has succeeded in performing the classic in a new and creative way that still touches the viewer.

The plot

Othello is a black military general in the Venetian army, honored and respected by the senate and renowned for his brave military exploits. When he passes over his right-hand man Iago and promotes Florentine Michael Cassio instead, Iago becomes bitter and jealous. He begins a plot to undo Othello, weaving a web of falsehood around the general. Preying upon the general’s love and insecurity, Iago convinces Othello that his wife Desdemona is unfaithful. By his clever machinations, Iago drives Othello into a jealous rage and convinces him that he must kill Desdemona. Other main characters include Iago’s wife, a clever, worldly woman who is passionately devoted to Desdemona and Roderigo, a bumbling and foolish gentleman of Venice who falls prey to Iago’s lies.

Shakespeare in the military

ISF portrayed “Othello” in modern times, using military uniforms, guns and bowie knives along with the steel structuring of modern buildings. The sets lend a clean-cut, cold aura to the play. The skeletal structure used as a main prop in the play has a rusted, worn look that constantly reminds the watcher of the wearing away of Othello’s character and sanity.

The music is used craftily to build suspense and tensity; used only in the beginning and during Iago’s dialogues, the brooding music has an ominous sound. A deep, throbbing rap beat is also used briefly during a celebration amongst the soldiers. Read more

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Review: Idaho Shakespeare's engrossing "Othello" explores dark emotions, wit and heartbreak

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010


By Dana Oland- doland@idahostatesman.com Published 8/08/10

Idaho Shakespeare Festival's engrossing production of “Othello” which opened Saturday night, delves deep beneath the well-known theme of jealousy.

Director Risa Brainin and her company uncover something more human, base and instinctual on which the tragedy turns. They point the finger at the doubt, fear, racism and unbridled ambition that feed the green-eyed monster.

Focusing on the emotional underpinnings of jealousy reveals each character's fatal flaw. For Othello it is doubt; for Iago, ambition; and for Desdemona, her flirtation with danger.

Brainin, as is her habit, sets her “Othello” in a 21st century world. Guards are Secret Service agents, and soldiers wear the timeless modern military uniforms that are so familiar from CNN. The play opens with Iago, in a fevered state as he watches Cassio's promotion play out over and over as if on the 24-hour news channel of his imagination. It haunts him and drives him to action.

David Anthony Smith gives a remarkable performance as the charmingly evil Iago. It's a role he's been hungry to play for some time now, and he feasts on it.

Iago is the most likable villain in Shakespeare's universe, and Smith plays him with devilish charm. He oozes charisma and ironic humor while offering us a glimpse of a stewing, liquid evil that has probably always bubbled below the surface. Iago has suppressed his contempt for Othello over the years because it served his ambition to do so.

But this play is about the turning of the tide.  Read more

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Idaho Shakespeare finds its 'Othello'

Friday, August 6th, 2010

It's a great tragedy of intimate proportions

-Idaho Statesman

Published 8/6/2010

To produce “Othello,” you must have one main ingredient in place: your Othello, says director Risa Brainin. She and Idaho Shakespeare Festival producing artistic director Charlie Fee had been talking about the play for a while, but without the right actor, it was a no go.

Then last summer, at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Fee saw actor David Alan Anderson. He knew he'd found their Othello. Coincidentally, Brainin had worked with Anderson several years ago in Indianapolis, where Anderson lives.

“Charlie said 'Have you heard of this guy?' and then it was like, 'perfect,' ” Brainin says.

This is Anderson's second time as the Moorish general. Company stalwart David Anthony Smith will play Iago, the other half of the play's tragic equation.

“Othello is the best general Venice has ever had,” Anderson says. “He's a hired gun and he's the only black man.”

This makes him the ultimate outsider, Brainin says. “The question is, can he ever be an insider?” Read entire article

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