Double, double Tahoe trouble: 2016 Shakespeare Festival kicks off on North Shore
Special to the Tribune
Prepping for the bard
Here are a few pro tips to follow if planning an evening this summer at the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival:
• Arrive early (parking is free for festival patrons after 5 p.m.).
• Bring a jacket and blanket, as it gets cold at night.
• Bring a flashlight to help find your vehicle in the parking lot at night. Your smartphone light will do just fine.
• Food and alcohol is allowed, but must be in a container that can fit under provided seats. (A small cooler or backpack is recommended.)
• For carried-in dishware, plastic and paper sets are recommended; no glass.
• Otherwise, for food, drink and other purchases made at the venue, plastic (VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover) is accepted.
• No pets allowed, unless a registered service animal. (Pets cannot be left in parked vehicles.)
What: Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival
Where: Sand Harbor State Park
When: Play season runs July 8 - Aug. 21, performances start at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Performances (2016 season): “The Comedy of Errors” and “Forever Plaid,” performed on separate evenings.
Phone: 1-800-74-SHOWS (7-4697) (for tickets), 775-832-1616 (office)
Note: Performance calendar, seating options and ticket purchases (prices vary) can be viewed/made online.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Imagine sitting outdoors, appetite satisfied, watching a well-known Shakespearean play performed live by professional actors with Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada serving as a stunning backdrop.
That image becomes a reality during the height of summer on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe — with this year being no exception.
Celebrating its 44th season, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival will continue its two-show offering this summer, with performances kicking off Friday, July 8, and running through Aug. 21, six evenings a week.
“It’s really a great kind of party at night, with families,” said Charles Fee, producing artistic director for the festival. “People see people that they know, and it’s a very social, very fun, very welcoming place.”
Nestled in Sand Harbor State Park just east of Incline Village, the Shakespeare amphitheater is surrounded by towering pine trees, rising mountains and the famed blue waters of Lake Tahoe, with sand underfoot.
“It’s just a beautiful setting,” reflected Reno resident Suzette Blanke, during a performance last season. “Anybody can be inside in any town, but only here can you be outside in the sand watching a play.”
The natural setting lends itself to the performances by adding is own soundtrack, emphasizing the mood in scenes as the summer evening grows later and the lighting changes, all creating a sense of place.
“Shakespeare’s plays were written for an outdoor theater, the Globe in London,” Fee said. “He references nature constantly in the plays, the physical environment of the characters in the play, and so, you’re really completely immersed in this natural environment as you watch the plays of Shakespeare.”
This season the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival — Nevada’s largest professional nonprofit theater company — is presenting Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” and the off-Broadway musical “Forever Plaid.”
The “Comedy of Errors” tells the tale of when two twin brothers and their two twin servants are unexpectedly reunited after decades apart, leading to a series of mishaps based on mistaken identities and ensuing comedy.
Meanwhile, “Forever Plaid” is a musical about four singers known as The Plaids coming back from the afterlife to perform a show they never made it to due to a vehicle accident they were involved in that cut their lives short.
“(The plays) are about being human, and they are about the craziness of our lives,” says Fee, who is also directing “The Comedy of Errors.” “The comedies are hysterically funny, the tragedies are deeply moving and sad, and the musicals are just beautiful entertainment.
“There is just something about engaging with live theater, the stories of what it means to be human, and that is a great, great gift of theater.”
Helping bring these relatable stories to life on stage are “actors from all over the country who are just brilliant at what they do” paired with “beautiful sets and costumes,” Fee said.
Kara Franklin, of Garland, Texas, who attended the festival last season (which featured “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Fantasticks”), only had praises for the actors — and she was not alone.
“These people are truly talented,” she said. “They were all fantastic. The singing was beautiful. The actors were great, engaging.”
A ‘total’ evening experience
What sets the Shakespeare Festival apart is that it’s not just a show of outdoor theater — it offers a unique-to-Lake-Tahoe dining experience as well.
On site there’s the Shakespeare’s Kitchen, which offers a variety of appetizers, entrées and desserts, and The StageSide Bar, where alcoholic beverages including fine wines, beer and cocktails can be purchased.
Once the house opens at 5:30 p.m., patrons can get food and drinks until 7:20 p.m., when the kitchen closes to prevent people from getting up and out of their seats during the performance, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
During intermission, desserts and drinks can be ordered. The cost of food, drinks and tip are not included in ticket prices.
Otherwise, patrons can bring in their own food and drinks (and yes, alcohol is allowed) into Sand Harbor, but it must be in a container that can fit under provided seats. A small cooler or backpack is recommended.
“It’s part of the total experience of the evening,” Fee said, referring to the food element of the festival. “It’s not just a performance. It’s a whole evening out; and to be able to picnic or eat at the cafe or buy your food at the cafe and bring it to your seat, it’s just part of the immersion in the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival experience.”
When asked to describe the overall experience, Blanke said it best: “It’s fun. It’s a good time to be with friends. You can have a little bite to eat, have a little wine, sit and watch something fun, laugh. It’s culture.”