Idaho Shakespeare Festival will bring a ‘season of incredible women’ in 2018

NOVEMBER 16, 2017 03:26 PM

UPDATED NOVEMBER 17, 2017 04:50 PM

New director brings a new vibe to ‘Labor’s’

Idaho Shakespeare Festival marks 40 years of classical theater in Boise

A Different Kind of Battle

Renee with Garrett working on the character of Macbeth

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.

Review: Idaho Shakespeare Festival opens a magical, hysterical production of ‘As You Like It’

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

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Through the ISF Access Program, the magic of summer performances are brought to the Deaf and Hard-of–Hearing

By Cassie Mrozinski, ISF Development Associate

Signing Shakespeare 2013

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.

Review: Idaho Shakespeare Festival opens with chills and thrills

The company’s 38th season launches with a production of the comedic Deathtrap.
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!

Review: Hats Off to ‘Noises Off’ at Idaho Shakespeare

Boise Weekly, Published September 5, 2012
by Tara Morgan

The set for Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s Noises Off feels instantly familiar–like it was borrowed from an old British sitcom. A well-worn couch and a doily-covered recliner rest center stage, framed by seven wooden doors–three upstairs, four down–and a staircase that winds up stage right. A number of bad tapestries, awkward portraits and tchotchkes fill out the rest of the warmly dated space.

And that TV comedy feeling continues as Mrs. Clackett ambles out in the opening scene, wearing a crocheted blanket housecoat and fuzzy pink slippers, her hair in curlers. As she stumbles through her lines and fusses with a plate of sardines, director Lloyd Dallas’ voice booms from above, giving her stage direction.

“How about the words, love, am I getting some of them right?” she asks. “Some of them have a very familiar ring,” he chides.

Clackett, played by the fictional Dotty (who, in turn, is played by ISF vet Lynn Allison), is in the final hours of rehearsal for a farce called Nothing On. Soon, her fellow cast members–a ragtag team of regional theater half-wits clad in vibrant ’70s leisure suits and mini dresses–come stumbling through the set’s doors, botching their lines and timing with equal dedication. As the clock ticks toward opening night, the Valium-popping Dallas (played by Richard Klautsch) gets more and more exasperated.

While the ISF cast makes this play-within-a-play concept look easy–switching between characters and accents fluidly, developing the narrative of the fictional play and the real play in unison–the production requires the technical precision of a ballet.

With every door that slams shut, another one opens. As Clackett leaves the stage momentarily, real estate agent Roger (played by the Ben Stiller-esque Christopher Williams) swings through the front door with a giggling blonde named Vicki (played with robotic vapidity by Betsy Mugavero). The second they duck into a bedroom for an afternoon tryst, the house’s tax-evading owners Phillip and Flavia (played by Shad Willingham and Kathryn Cherasaro) come barging on stage. And things continue in this manner for the remainder of the sexual innuendo-filled Nothing On.

And while there is plenty of slapstick comedy going on in the fictional play–with dresses disappearing and actors emerging in sheets to look like Arab sheikhs–the company’s rapidly intertwining personal relationships provide for even more hilarity. When we’re taken behind the curtain in Act Two, we learn that Dallas is sleeping with both Brooke (who plays Vicki) and the play’s stage manager, Poppy. Dottie is having a tryst with the jealous Garry (who plays Roger), who thinks she’s also seeing Frederick (who plays Phillip). These petty jealousies and ego bruisings play out mostly silently–and sometimes confusingly–backstage during a performance of the fictional play.

Though Noises Off can be a lot to follow visually–with characters swinging in and out of doors and squabbling in various corners of the set–it’s ultimately a fast-paced, finely timed farce that promises to only get better with time.

Click here to read at Boise Weekly.

Review: Comedy and magic blend in Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s ‘Winter’s Tale’

Published: August 6, 2012


Once upon a time there was a king afflicted by jealousy and madness, a family torn apart and a kingdom thrown into chaos — and so begins “The Winter’s Tale,” which opened at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival on Saturday.

Written late in his life, this is one of Shakespeare’s best and most complex plays, both in language and theme. He takes elements he worked on in other plays and weaves them together.

Jesse Berger’s production unfolds like a pop-up storybook full of magic and art.

From David Barber’s whimsical set, tinged with symbols of astrology and alchemy, to Sara Tosetti’s colorful 19th-century-esque costumes, it’s an enchanting night of theater.

Berger and his design team tell this story exceedingly well, with clarity and charm.

Kings Leontes (David Anthony Smith) and Polixenes (Lynn Robert Berg) rule Sicilia and Bohemia, respectively. And they are lifelong friends — “brothers,” they say. And just like Cain and Abel, their love for one another is tinged by suspicion and doubt.

In a moment of vulnerability at a winter solstice celebration, Leontes suspects that Polixenes has won the affection of Leontes’ pregnant wife, Hermione (Lise Bruneau). Leontes accuses her, immediately becomes a tyrant and devastates his family and subjects.

Smith turns in a wonderfully heartrending performance. His jealousy comes on as if a disease — a “tremor cordis,” he calls it.

His suspicion deepens and Smith physically diminishes, falling deeper into madness in Lear-like fashion. The more he accuses her, the bigger toll it takes.

Berg, an actor who’s been with this company since he was a college student, continues to mature into powerful and commanding roles. His Polixenes is such a role.

Bruneau is a compelling and wise Hermione, and brings a lovely sense of grace to the role. Richard Klautsch is delightful as the stalwart Camillo.

Laurie Birmingham, who was marvelous as Juliet’s nurse in “Romeo and Juliet” earlier in the season, is a revelation as Paulina, a courtier who comes to Hermione’s defense. She’s a no-nonsense, don’t-mess-with-me best friend.

The second act takes us to Bohemia, a wildly colorful and exotic land filled with a patchwork of country styles all stitched together with Slavic style.

Kimbre Lancaster as the grown-up Perdita — Leontes banishes this daughter as an infant because he suspects she’s not his — and Miles Gaston Villanueva as Florizel, Polixenes’ son, are terrific as young lovers who must overcome their parents’ histories.

M.A. Taylor and Juan Rivera Lebron are hysterical as the Old Shepherd and his son.

And there are loads of fun character performances in the cast, including Lina Chambers, Veronica Von Tobel and Tom Ford as the musical rogue Autoyclus.

Dana Oland: 377-6442, Twitter: @IDS_DanaOland

Click to read more here.

Who: Stitch Marker

Getting to know one of the most familar faces on Boise’s stages
By Deanna Darr

Published in Boise Weekly July 25, 2012

Stitch Marker has one of the most recognizable faces in Boise—but then he should, considering he’s in his 29th season with Idaho Shakespeare Festival.

Marker has played everyone from peasant to villain to king to comic relief and earned a place in the collective consciousness of area theater-goers in the process. He’s been part of the beloved summer festival since the very beginning and watched the valley’s theater scene transform over the decades from the vantage point of the stage.

What drew you to theater?

I was chronically shy … and I just sort of ended up in a drama class almost accidentally … and ended up in a play and I was terrified. I didn’t talk to people much on a one-on-one basis, let alone in front of a whole group of people. But this acting coach I had was just so wonderful. He really coached us about getting into a role, letting the role sort of take you over, and it was so liberating I couldn’t believe it. I think one of the first things I played was sort of a really assertive, aggressive, bullyish sort of a guy, and it felt great. It felt so liberating. I had permission to just let ‘er bust, and I was just hooked from that point on out.

How did you get involved with Idaho Shakespeare Festival?

When I started here at [Boise State] in 1970, there really wasn’t any kind of professional, or, I think, even semi-professional theater going on in Boise at that time. … I was just really fortunate to be in a class with a bunch of people who were really motivated theater people who were frustrated and wanted to get out on their own and do something exciting. So that core group of people started this theater we called Theater in a Trunk in a warehouse on 16th and Bannock. And out of that came the people who essentially started Idaho Shakespeare Festival. … Originally we were talking about doing Hair as a first production, but that was like a $10,000 royalty, blah, blah, and we were like, “Oh, real theater costs money? Well, we can’t do real theater then.” We just decided on Shakespeare because it was dead and free.

What do you remember about your first performance?

What I just loved–what knocked me out–was the original location for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival was at Ray’s Oasis, which is now Angell’s. … At that time, they didn’t have any of the trappings on the patio for the restaurant, so it was just bare space out there. Outside of acting on hard concrete, it was just perfect, just wonderful­–lots of really cool entrances and exits and just the environment was really magnificent to do a big play. We’d have to block off the streets in downtown and people would get so pissed off at us. They’d run barricades and yell at us and call us names because, of course, we’re in tights. So we got a lot of verbal abuse that way. But when you weren’t in a scene, a lot of the time you were up on one of the streets … just averting traffic.

How would you say Boise’s theater scene has changed and where is it now?

I think Idaho Shakespeare Festival was a real pivot point for the direction of theater in the Treasure Valley. In the ’70s, it became apparent that “Yeah, there’s an audience here that’s willing to pay and support a professional theater,” and so that was really the biggest door opening. … Touring, that was a really huge thing that I thought the festival was really smart to take on–educational, school-outreach tours. So that was maybe my favorite job I’ve ever had.

Do people still recognize you from that?

It’s shocking, and they’re getting quite old themselves–“Really, you saw me in high school and you’re how old? 50?”

Why do you think the festival is so loved?

Just from the very first year, from the get-go, it was not just doing a play, it was an event. It was where you could go and have a picnic, eat and hang out on the lawn and drink, be as verbose as you wanted to be–be as sloppy drunk as you wanted to be.

What keeps you going back?

It’s the scariest fun anybody could ever have. I think it’s absolutely terrifying almost every time. You kind of get hooked on the fear. It’s such a gratifying feeling.

Click here to view more of this interview on video and photos at Boise Weekly.

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