The Bard and beyond

Summer with Shakespeare and other playwrights

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival dominates the big stage with jazz hands.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival dominates the big stage with jazz hands.

Photo courtesy of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare

Summer is when Shakespeare fests reign, and this year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, so there’s really no better time to take in some classics, as well as a few other non-Bard related productions.

Here’s a rundown, starting close to home, then looking farther afield:

First up is the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble’s Shakespeare Festival (June 23-July 31). This year, artistic directors Rob Salas and Gia Battista are pairing Edmond Rostand’s swashbuckling Cyrano de Bergerac (with actor-fight choreographer Matt Edwards playing the guy with the big nose) and the 1956 musical romance Bells Are Ringing (involving telephones with dials, as seen in the 1960 movie with Judy Holliday and Dean Martin).

Salas insists the shows really do belong together.

Cyrano’s rather magical, set in France circa 1640 [and] the way Cyrano uses heroic language and swordsmanship, it’s like he’s casting spells, doing impossible things,” Sales says. “In Bells, the lead character is also a magical shape-shifter, becoming a hero in every life she touches.”

The festival, now in its seventh year, currently stages shows indoors at the Davis Veterans Memorial Center Theatre (203 E. 14th Street in Davis) Thursdays through Sundays. There’s a mix of evening and matinee performances; single tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, and $15 for children. Learn more by calling (530) 802-0998 or visit

The following month, Sacramento Shakespeare, a seasonal offshoot of Sacramento City College, offers the battle-of-the-sexes comedies Love’s Labours Lost (July 1-30) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (July 8-31), in repertory.

Labours director Luther Hanson says the show ties into the community college’s history.

“We’re setting it in 1916, when Sac City College opened,” he says. “All the characters will have a preppy college look as professors or students, with male and female glee clubs.”

Lori Ann Delappe-Grondin, who directs Dream, promises enchantment and says the four classic elements—earth, air, fire, water—will also come into play.

“It’s fey and otherworldly, with a bit of magic and darkness,” she says.

Sacramento Shakespeare’s shows are held outdoors in the William A. Carroll Amphitheatre, which is located near the corner of 15th Avenue and Land Park Drive. Temps can be toasty at showtime, but drop by 9 p.m. if the Delta breeze kicks in. Tickets are $18 for general admission, $15 for students and seniors. Kids ages 12 and under get in free. The shows start at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Gates open 90 minutes before show. Learn more at

Those in the mood for a daytrip or weekender won’t want to miss the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, (July 8-August 21). This year’s schedule includes outdoor twilight productions of The Comedy of Errors (a madcap farce with two sets of identical twins) alternating with the retro musical revue Forever Plaid (a fluffy, nostalgic rendition of the clean-cut male vocal harmony quartets of the 1950s).

Director Charles Fee said he decided to play off the upcoming Summer Olympics, setting Comedy in Rio de Janeiro, during Carnival. Think rhythm, rum, risqué romance.

“This is the ultimate play about mistaken identity, and a Brazilian city filled with costumed, partying revelers allows for a lot of fluidity,” Fee says.

Bonus, the amphitheater is literally located at the beach at Sand Harbor State Park (2005 Highway 28 Incline Village, Nevada). The plays start at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; tickets are $27-$99 for general admission and $15-$25 for those 25 and under. For more information, call (775) 832-1616 or visit Reserve ahead; some weekends sell out.