Preview: Celebrate the Bard
A flock of summer Shakespeare festivals open this month. Catch them before they spread their wings.
June is when the summer Shakespeare festivals get underway. These fests stage other kinds of plays, of course. A quick rundown of the options:
Davis Shakespeare—Previews begin on June 21 for Mary Stuart, Friedrich Schiller’s drama from 1800 about the struggle between two royals during Shakespeare’s day—Elizabeth I and Mary (Queen of Scots) Stuart. Alternating in repertory will be the musical showbiz farce On The 20th Century, set in the Roaring ’20s. For your fix of iambic pentameter, Shakespeare’s As You Like It will be staged in September and October. This summer’s cast includes three professional actors as well as well-known community performers; The two shows open on June 28 and 29, continuing through August 4-5. Performances are indoors in the Veterans Memorial Theatre, 203 E. 14th Street in Davis (adjacent to Davis High School). Tickets are $15-$30. Showtimes vary. For more info, visit shakespearedavis.org or call (530) 802-0998.
Sacramento Shakespeare—This long-running community festival likewise gets started in late June. Plays are staged outdoors in William Land Park’s William Carroll Amphitheatre (next to Fairytale Town)—bring a picnic and blanket or a low-slung lawn chair (and maybe a light jacket for the second act). This summer’s plays are Shakespeare’s historical drama (with battle scenes) Henry V (July 6, 7, 12, 14, 20, 22, 27 and 29) set in “a fantastical Britannia in the First Century A.D. in which women can ascend the throne;” alternating in repertory with The Count of Monte Cristo (June 29, 30, July 8, 13, 15, 21, 26 and 28), a French swashbuckler about a man framed and imprisoned on his wedding day, who gets revenge 14 years later, based on the 1844 adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas. This festival is affiliated with nearby Sacramento City College and features local actors; $16-$20. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., all shows start at 7:30 p.m.; sacramentoshakespeare.net.
Lake Tahoe Shakespeare—This glossy festival’s shows are performed outdoors at twilight, in a dramatic lakeside amphitheater at Sand Harbor in Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park (south of Incline Village). Bring a jacket. The mountain air cools after sundown. This year’s shows are Shakespeare’s tragedy of ambition and revenge, Macbeth (in a traditional production set in medieval Scotland) and the recent jukebox musical Beehive (a lighthearted, nostalgic look at female artists from the 1960s like the Supremes and Aretha Franklin, who sported teased-up, sky-ascending hairstyles, supported by lots of hairspray). Artistic director Charles Fee originated these productions at the Great Lakes Theatre in Cleveland last spring; they are currently at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (where Fee has been artistic director for 20-plus years), and then come to the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, where they run in repertory July 6-August 26 (performances Tuesdays through Sundays). Tahoe Shakespeare shows typically employ around 20 professional actors, mostly from the East Coast and Chicago; $30-$99, laketahoeshakespeare.com or (800) 74-SHOWS.
Other festivals to consider:
California Shakespeare Theatre in Orinda—June 13-October 7, outdoors, calshakes.org.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland—The oldest and biggest Shakespeare fest in the country; now through October 28, osfashland.org.