Score (20 years) one for Shakespeare |

Score (20 years) one for Shakespeare

Lisa Marsh, Tribune Correspondent

When the house lights go down at Sand Harbor Friday night, it will be Mother Nature flipping the switch. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor is under way until August 30.

“There’s something remarkable about doing Shakespeare outdoors,” said Sands Hall, who plays Olivia in Twelfth Night . “You feel connected to a legacy of performing.”

Final preparations were made Wednesday prior to the first preview performance. This year the comedy Twelfth Night, and the classic love story Romeo and Juliet will be featured. Hall, who has been performing for “decades,” always had a love for Shakespeare. She is looking forward to the first performance, but says every one is different, and that’s where the magic is.

On Wednesday afternoon actors sat in lawn chairs and discussed cues, line delivery and props. After a swim and some sun, they will don their costumes, makeup and personas in tents on the beach.

“This is better than Broadway, what a Green Room,” said Sam Folio, executive director of the festival.

According to Twelfth Night director Lynne Collins, the receptive audience and the lake makes the experience special for the actors. She says the people who usually come are not familiar with Shakespeare, so their reactions are more unique and genuine. As to pre-performance jitters, she says it’s more excitement than nerves.

“A joke’s not a joke if there’s not someone to laugh at it,” Collins said. “The actors are really excited to try everything out on the audience and see where the laughs are.”

The set is unique in the fact that the backdrop is completely open, allowing for lake views. Folio says that when the members of the remodeled Globe Theatre in London saw a photo of the set, they wanted to know if it was really that beautiful here.

“I said, ‘no, it’s actually better’ and they said we had ‘one-upped’ them,” Folio added. “I told them – ‘no, God did.'”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a Tahoe tradition which started at Sugar Pine Point in 1971. The production moved to Sand Harbor in 1978 and has been growing ever since. This is the second year that the Foothill Theatre Company of Nevada City, Calif. has produced the plays. More than 400 Shakespearean actors tried out for roles.

By 1995, the festival became too large for the Incline Village Visitor’s Center and Chamber of Commerce to organize, so a nonprofit organization was developed. The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival has been fund-raising through memberships and sponsors have also pitched in to help.

“In three years as a nonprofit organization, we have seen this grow from a $250,000 festival to $950,000 – that counts our capital campaign for a new $1 million stage,” Folio said.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor has performances every night but Mondays through August 30. Tickets range between $18 and $28. Early seating starts at 6 p.m. and patrons are encouraged to bring blankets, picnics, flashlights and low-back chairs. Food, beer, wine and coffees are also available. Chairs may be rented as well. For details about performances, call (800) 74-SHOWS (74697).

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