Story by Priya Hutner · Photos by Joy Strotz | Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival ·
Shakespeare wrote, “All the world’s a stage,” and, at the Shakespeare Amphitheater, the stage and setting is truly out of this world. This year’s production, “As You Like It,” is a classic Shakespeare play with a twist. The setting is New England in the early 20th Century soon after the second Industrial Revolution. The location, beautiful Sand Harbor Point on Lake Tahoe.
Bridget Gordon, the volunteer coordinator, is positively effusive about her job. She oversees 200 volunteers supporting the event. The eldest volunteer, Mary, is 91-years-young and has been volunteering for the Shakespeare Festival for the last 27 years. Volunteers greet and guide patrons each step of the way through the stunning venue.
Bridget escorts us to the stage, past The Shakespeare Kitchen and Bar, packed with theatergoers enjoying dinner before the show. We are introduced to executive director Bob Taylor, one of the most gracious people I’ve met. He escorts my friend Karen Terrey, a local poet, and myself to a settee overlooking Lake Tahoe to chat about this year’s production.
Taylor oversees the nonprofit theater company. He explains that the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival joined forces with the Boise, Idaho, Shakespeare Festival and the Great Lakes Theater of Cleveland, Ohio, a few years back and are all part of a consortium of independently operated not-for-profit theaters.
“Ed Morgan, the director of the production, has found a way to make Shakespeare accessible as we experience the story with costumes and early jazz music of the era, and a scene with a Barber Shop Quartet. The story explores the human condition and how we as humans deal with life’s challenging situations,” Taylor says.
The cast begins work on production in the winter months. They are hired to remain with the production throughout the season and perform in each of the different locations. Tahoe is the last stop on the tour. The actors come from all over the country and while they are in the area for the summer production they live in Kings Beach and Tahoe City.
“The story is still relevant today as it was in Shakespeare’s time and in the post-Victorian era. It’s about discovery, nature and love. Even now, with all of the technology and so much information coming toward us, many of us ask how can we find a place to breathe?” Taylor says.
“One of the greatest things about the Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is the setting. People travel from 100 miles away to come to Tahoe and see the production” with more than 30,000 people attending the festival every year. Taylor is enthusiastic and passionate about the theater and his work.
“We’ve made new improvements to our venue this year. We have all new, comfortable Adirondack chairs in the premium seating area and replaced all of the sand chairs in the open seating area. We’ve added more café tables and chairs. Brimms Catering provides the food,” he says. People also may bring in his or her own food and wine and enjoy a picnic in the sand while enjoying the show.
Karen and I are led to our seats; I am in awe of the stupendous setting. With the mountains and lake stretching out around me, I sink back into the cozy chair and wait for the show to begin. A gentle breeze flows off the lake. The stage is set with large industrial backdrop. Taylor steps out onto the stage and welcomes everyone. The sun gently slips away and the last cloud over the amphitheater disappears making way for the stars. Giddy with excitement, the show begins. With a glass of wine in hand, night falls and the lights illuminate the stage.
‘As You Like It’
“As You Like It” is the story of greed, power and love. The Duke has been forced into exile from the court by is brother the usurper, Duke Fredrick. The Duke takes refuge in the Forest of Arden with a band of faithful supporters. His daughter, Rosalind, remains in the court as a companion to her cousin, Celia, Fredrick’s daughter.
There is Orlando, kept in poverty by his brother after father Sir Rowland de Boys dies. Orlando takes part in a wrestling match to win back his fortune, meets Rosalind and falls in love. Fredrick banishes Rosalind. She and Celia run into the forest. For safety, Rosalind dresses as a boy named Ganymede and Celia takes the name Aliena and poses as Ganymede’s sister. They persuade Touchstone, The Fool, to journey with them. The story of love and mayhem unfolds in the Forest of Arden.
The show was delightful with plenty of laughter. I had a grand evening. The actors were fabulous. Touchstone, The Fool, stole the show. All’s well that ends well, and who doesn’t love happy endings and great fun.
If you haven’t reserved your seats to see this year’s performance at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, there is no better time then now. The production runs Tuesday through Sunday until Aug. 24. Tickets range from $15 to $85. Tables of two and four may be reserved, as well. The doors open at 5:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
The Monday Night Showcase at the amphitheater presents an array of music and shows. The Sierra Nevada Ballet performs “Swan Lake,” The Reno Jazz Orchestra presents “Bring me the Funk,” a James Brown retrospective (See In The Groove for details in this edition), The Tahoe Players perform “Sweeny Todd” and the incomparable Booker T. Jones are scheduled through August.
As well, the festival hosts the D.G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare performances for kids with performances held at Sand Harbor State Park, in South Lake Tahoe at Tahoe Tallac and in Reno, Nev., at Bartley Ranch. The programs are free, but donations are requested for $1 for children and $5 for adults. Space is limited for each performance, so reserve a spot online in advance.
For information and tickets, call (800) 747-4697 or visit laketahoeshakespeare.com.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
7:30 p.m. | Tuesday-Sunday until Aug. 24
Monday Night Showcase
Aug. 4 | Reno Jazz Orchestra “Bring Me the Funk of James Brown”
Aug. 11 | Tahoe Players’ “Sweeny Todd”
Aug. 18 | Booker T. Jones
Shakespeare for kids
July 31 | Sand Harbor State Park | 10 a.m.
Aug. 1 | Valhalla Boat House Theatre | 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.
Aug. 4 | Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheatre | 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 5-7 | Sand Harbor State Park | 10 a.m. each day