By Cassie Mrozinski, Development Associate
In 2012, something magical happened. ISF received a grant from the Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation to fund an innovative idea from Education Director, Renee Vomocil. This idea, aptly named the Helena Project (for the All’s Well That Ends Well and A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s transformative character who holds unwavering hope) aimed to bring Shakespeare’s works to the children at the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital School. These kids, while receiving treatment for chronic and life-threatening illnesses, are able to continue schooling in the hospital so that they may keep up with classmates and return to school once they are able. Teaching artists from the School of Theater work with students at the hospital to analyze, interpret, and perform Shakespeare’s works. This creative outlet is a healing, artistic way to teach young scholars about the Bard, while helping them find their own voice and inspiration, often times while under intense treatments.
The very year the program began, Renee was asked to present the curriculum to educators from across the country at the annual Folger Shakespeare Library conference for educators in Washington, D.C. The second year of the program, she was asked to speak at a national conference for hospital schools. This past spring saw a poignant, touching video produced, called “A Different Kind of Battle” (see below). This short film aims to spread the importance of theater and Shakespeare in the lives of hospital students.
Carla Hart, the head of the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital School, is adamant that the Shakespeare program makes a difference. An 11 year-old girl named Grace attended each class and was recovering from a brain tumor. She had never had the opportunity to take a theater class. Grace wore an eye patch as part of her recovery, an accessory that further contributed to her shyness and hesitation to participate. Yet, as the course continued, and she donned exciting costume pieces, Grace lost herself in the characters and gradually came out of her shell, becoming one of the students with the best voice projection.
Shakespeare lived over 400 years ago and often wrote of love, good and evil, laughter, and deep conflict. For sick kids today, fighting their own battles, his voice resonates, gives hope, and enlightens.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland
Sweet Arden, William Shakespeare’s enchanted forest, where troubles melt, love letters fall from trees and happy endings are ensured for all, comes to vibrant life in Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s production of As You Like It, which opened to a packed house Saturday night.
Director Edward Morgan makes his ISF debut with As You Like It, his charmingly beautiful reinvention of Shakespeare’s comedy that explores the playwright’s recurring theme of humanity’s intersection with nature. But rather than the fairy magic that alters behavior in his earlier A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s the very quality of it that transforms.
That makes the amphitheater’s encroaching trees, chirping birds and shifting natural light feel like a necessary part of Russell Metheny’s rotating set, which takes us from a harsh, early-20th-century factory to a golden daguerreotype-like image of the Adirondack Mountains that glows under Rick Martin’s lighting.
Here, the tyranny of the court is replaced by the oppression of machinery and punch clocks of the second Industrial Revolution, a setting that speaks to us, as we struggle against the tyranny of the ping of texts, email and social media.
Morgan ditched its Elizabethan tunes and inserted appealing American ditties sung by barbershop quartets, trios and a stellar song-and-dance man.
The story revolves around an exiled duke (Dougfred Miller) and his followers, who live a Utopian life in the forest, and a pair of wandering lovers: his daughter Rosalind (Betsy Mugavero), who also is banished, flees disguised as a boy to Arden to seek her father – and on a separate flight to escape the death plot of his brother (J. Todd Adams) – Orlando (Torsten Johnson), the man she loves.
She brings her cousin Celia (Christine Weber) and Touchstone (Dustin Tucker) along, and they meet a bevy of brilliantly funny characters, from melancholy Jaques (David Anthony Smith) to the mismatched Phoebe (Lori McNally) and Silvius (Juan Rivera Lebron).
Mugavero’s Rosalind bubbles with energy and wit as she schools Orlando on how best to woo her; Johnson’s Orlando is unabashedly earnest, and Weber’s Celia is luminous.
Tucker gives a blistering triple-threat performance as Touchstone, who is cast here as a vaudevillian extraordinaire.
As Jaques, Smith mines the deeper irony and humor in the text just with his phrasing and fluctuating tone. His “Seven Ages of Man” speech is worth the ticket price alone.
If you think Shakespeare’s plays are hard to understand, give this one a try. It might just bring you back to the Bard.
This show has a short run – just 12 more chances to see it before it’s off to open Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival’s season. It’s really a don’t miss.
Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland
By Cassie Mrozinski, ISF Development Associate
If you have experienced a night of theater at Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s Amphitheater by the river in Boise, you have probably heard many things. The quiet murmurs of an audience as a poignant or shocking moment is revealed on stage…a goose honking overhead during Juliet’s heart-wrenching monologue…the tortured voice of Anthony from Sweeney Todd as “Johanna” is sung clearly and perfectly. Our audience members are here because they crave an experience and most likely, because they love theater. But what if you couldn’t hear that monologue? That song? What if you, too, love live theater, musicals, and an atmosphere like the Amphitheater… but were deaf?
Signing Shakespeare, one aspect of the Festival’s Access Program, ensures that ISF fans who are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing can enjoy performances every season. Holly Thomas-Mowery, a nationally-certified, seasoned American Sign Language interpreter, leads a talented team of six who spend weeks before each performance studying the script so that they can successfully and artfully interpret the show. Each of ISF’s five shows will have a dedicated interpreted performance with American Sign Language. Click here for full info on Signing Shakespeare and the Access Program.
On June 11, we will be celebrating all components of the Access Program at the theater with a fascinating discussion panel. Participants will include Thomas-Mowery and Steven Snow (Executive Director of the Idaho Council for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing) who will discuss Signing Shakespeare; Carla Hart, Head of the St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital School, who will discuss the Helena Project, a theater residency taught by Festival artists at the Hospital School (Click here for an amazing video of the Helena Project); and Judie Mickelson, Event Coordinator at Good Samaritan Boise Village Retirement, who will speak to a complimentary ticket program for people with financial needs. In addition, the forum will feature several ISF actors who will discuss what bringing their work to all members of the community means to them. Please join us for this informative and captivating talk that will begin at 6:45 in the Dell, just outside of the amphitheater.
The culture and excitement of summer theater is an experience not to be missed. The ISF Access Program guarantees that no one has to.
The company’s 38th season launches with a production of the comedic Deathtrap.
BY DANA OLAND
June 2, 2014
Idaho Shakespeare Festival has learned a little something about murder mystery in the past few years, with its productions of “The Mousetrap” in 2012 and “The Woman in Black” in 2010. Most importantly, people love them – and they’re best performed in the dark.
The latter task was achieved through Rick Martin’s always brilliant lighting design and clever use of timing. The show starts a few minutes later than usual, intermission lasts a few minutes longer, and by the second act the theater is plunged into darkness so the effects of a new computerized lighting system can work its spine-tingling magic.
And the audience at Saturday night’s opening of “Deathtrap” just ate it up. There were gasps and moments of shocked awe provided by director Charlie Fee’s stylish production.
Stylish is hard to do when you’re set in the 1970s. But this production pulls it off with Russell Metheny’s set – which is part looming Connecticut colonial home, part medieval torture chamber – and Alex Jaeger’s flared pants and Florence Henderson-esque pant-suits. And, of course, Martin’s lighting.
Ira Levin’s comic thriller “Deathtrap” is a play within a play, about a play about a murder – follow? If you did, you might have a chance of holding on during the hairpin turns and plot twists that happen throughout.
The text is clever, self-referential and funny – if a bit dated. But some of the crucial plot points depend on that era’s technology – or lack thereof.
This production that originated at ISF’s sister company, Cleveland’s Great Lakes Theater, is well played by a tightly wound ensemble.
It all hinges on the idea that art imitates life, and vice versa – a duality that provides the engine for the play.
Tom Ford is Sidney Bruhl, a greedy and once successful playwright in desperate financial straits who is willing to do almost anything to produce a hit. Murder? Maybe.
Ford deftly navigates the gray areas in his character, hitting all the right notes between charming victim and menacing adversary.
Attractive ISF newcomer Nick Steen’s Clifford swings between a sweet aw-shucks charm and a cold-hearted deviousness.
Tracee Patterson makes her ISF debut as Myra Bruhl – Sidney’s wealthy, nervous wife – and has the horror scream down.
Lynn Allison provides a huge dose of comic relief with her Dutch psychic Helga Ten Dorp. Her character’s fiery red hair, eccentric clothing and Allison’s spot-on comic timing make you want to see more.
Lynn Robert Berg rounds out the cast as Bruhl’s attorney Porter Milgrim, the character who puts all the pieces together in the end.
Read more click here!