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Idaho Shakespeare emerges from pandemic for 2021 season of live theater. Here’s how

Posted at 10:43 AM, May 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 10:24:54-04

BOISE, Idaho — This story was originally written by Dana Oland of the Idaho Statesman.

If “all the world’s a stage,” as Shakespeare wrote, then the reopening of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in 2021 might just indicate things to come. Yes, the Treasure Valley’s popular and iconic performing arts event will happen this summer, after the coronavirus pandemic canceled its 2020 season. No, it will not be the experience you remember. Not sure whether it’s the “new normal,” but this is what it is for now.

“It’s going to take all of us to make this happen,” producing artistic director Charlie Fee said via Zoom.

Now that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidelines open the potential for safe outdoor events, it seems possible, Fee said. But the festival doesn’t just have to meet CDC and Central District Health standards. It also must meet standards set by Actors’ Equity and the other performing arts unions to keep actors, designers, crew and other theater artists safe.

That puts a five-show season out of reach, Fee said, even with a fully vaccinated company. It also means shows can’t run in repertory, with actors of different casts swapping and sharing dressing rooms. It makes large-cast shows a no-go. For example, its pre-pandemic production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” the comedy originally scheduled to open in 2020 — and one Fee wanted to bring back this summer — has 25 actors. That’s too many to safely manage backstage. To make this season happen, ISF will push back opening night to July 8. The amphitheater will be seated to 50% capacity, so 380 people for each performance, but each play will have a longer run, so you’ll have more time to see them. ON STAGE

More modest — yet creative — season plans were announced Saturday.

The 2021 productions are pared down and streamlined: “Sleuth,” a mystery-thriller with a twist, has five actors and will open the season July 8 to Aug. 1; Shakespeare’s epic romance “The Tempest” will play Aug. 12 to Sept. 5 with 12 actors; and the zany three-actor romp “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)“ will run Sept. 10-26. That production also will play at ISF’s sister theater at Lake Tahoe in Nevada. Whether there can be intermissions is still up for debate, and so is the question of the Greenshow, ISF’s signature entertainment before plays. So, stay tuned. THE EXPERIENCE
You still can bring your own picnic, beer and wine, or explore the new menu at Cafe Shakespeare, now under the culinary talents of Sarah and David “DK” Kelly, who earned raves with their Petite 4 and Bleubird restaurants in Boise.

Tables will be spaced throughout the 2.5-acre reserve, where you can sit with friends and family, and dine without your mask. But remember, you will need to wear it when you’re up and moving around, and when you enter the theater.

The amphitheater will open 30 minutes before showtime, and you can’t bring food to your seats. Beverages are allowed, but you must keep your mask on as much as possible. It’s possible that could change as the summer progresses, but for now, that’s the deal if you want to see a play.

“And, of course, it could all go south, depending on what happens with the virus,” Fee said. “But our sincere hope is that this will work. We have everything going for us, including the science.”

TICKETS

If you are a season ticket holder, click here to keep up with the most recent changes. Contact the box office now through May 31 to reschedule your dates. You can call at 208-336-9221, but online is going to be your best bet. If you’re not currently a ticket holder, you can purchase season, flex packages and individual tickets starting in June. Season ticket prices will be announced then.

The Statesman will update this story and preview the plays as we get closer to opening night.