Shakespeare Festival takes on tragedy |

Shakespeare Festival takes on tragedy

Christina Nelson
Emma Garrard / Tribune News Service / MacBeth, played by Phillip Charles Sneed, is surrounded by the three witches, played by Kate Mines, Karyn Casl and Carolyn Howarth, during the Shakespeare play "MacBeth" at Sand Harbor.

From an old West twist on one of the Bard’s most popular comedies to a historic portrayal of a famous tragedy, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor is packing its seats for the yearly event, organizers said.

“Attendance is really good,” said Natalie Savidge, the festival’s marketing coordinator. “We’re actually above last year’s ticket sales for this time last year.”

In a departure from the festival’s usual comedy performances, festival organizers decided to host a mix of play genres this year, with performances of “A Comedy of Errors” and “Macbeth,” produced by Nevada City’s Foothill Theater Company.

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival executive director Catherine Atack said this is the first year the festival has performed a Shakespearean tragedy. In past years the festival rotated between eight Shakespeare comedies, but Atack said market research showed that people were interested in the Bard’s histories and tragedies.

“It really opens up the door for us to do all sorts of performances in following years,” Atack said.

So far “Macbeth” has been a hit, with a sold out performance Thursday night during the full moon, she said.

Called one of William Shakespeare’s masterpieces, “Macbeth” is a dark and treacherous tale of a man, who was destined to become the King of Scotland, and his ambitious wife.

The festival put a new twist on one of Shakespeare’s “hits” with “A Comedy of Errors.” The play – a slapstick comedy about mistaken identity – is set in the mythical and lawless old West of the United States.

“Because we have been limited to those eight comedies, there comes a time when the theater company tries to mix it up,” Atack said.

The original version of “A Comedy of Errors” was set in ancient Ephesus, a location Shakespeare’s peers associated with black magic.

“Why not transplant our story to a place that means something to you and me?” director Carolyn Howarth said in a statement. “The American West was every bit as ancient and lawless as ancient Ephesus – and equally wild – so much so that it’s almost impossible for us not to think of it as the ‘Wild West.”

Savidge said the festival has been attracting about 600 to 700 people for each performance.

In addition to the Shakespeare performances, the organization – which recently invested $2 million in the stage at Sand Harbor – is hosting the Tahoe-Reno International Film Festival and the Sierra Nevada Ballet. Atack said she’s hoping to see the community support the new events at the Sand Harbor venue.

“I would hate to see us put on those two events and have nobody turn up,” she said.

– The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival at Sand Harbor State Park runs through Aug. 21. For tickets or information, call (800) 74-SHOWS or visit


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