Much Ado About Everything: Idaho Shakespeare Festival No Longer Waiting Backstage
It was March 2020 when the creative team at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, which teams up with the Great Lakes Theater in Ohio, was rehearsing Much Ado About Nothing.
“It’s been exactly two years since we were closed,” recalls Charlie Fee, artistic director of EWB production. “Everything has been stopped. So it’s an absolute joy to be back.
Indeed, Fee and company have decided to return to Much Ado for the 2022 season. A full slate of five productions will fill the summer schedule at their Idaho amphitheater. After Much Ado, there will be Ain’t Misbehavin’, Romeo and Juliet, Little Shop of Horrors and 39 Steps.
Between rehearsals in Cleveland, Fee joined Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about high expectations for what could be a season like no other.
“You can just feel how ready we all are to be back, especially on our outdoor stage in Idaho, where we all feel the safest.”
Read the full transcript below:
GEORGE PRENTICE: This is the morning edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Hello. I am George Prentice. And on this spring morning, Shakespeare reminds us that “for love is crowned with bounty in spring.” As you like it. Indeed, we love when we learn that there will be a new season waiting for us in the amphitheater with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. So, let’s spend some time this morning with the artistic director of production and a good friend of this program, Charlie Fee. Charlie, hello.
CHARLIE FEE: Hello, George. It’s so good to hear your voice.
PRENTICE: You’re in Ohio.
FEE: I’m in Ohio. I’m in Cleveland, right by the lake.
PRENTICE: Are you and company rehearsing for the Great Lakes Theatre?
FEE: We are in rehearsal for Much Ado About Nothing. And that was exactly two years ago that we were shut down, and that was during Much Ado About Nothing in 2020. We were about to go to the theater and start tech, and everything was shut down. It is therefore an absolute joy to be back with the Cleveland company to finally bring Much Ado to the stage.
PRENTICE: And that’s the production that will kick off our summer season in Idaho as well.
FRESH: So we’re going to play it in Cleveland, then we’ll bring it along with a few other shows from Cleveland to Idaho and open our season in mid-May with Much Ado About Nothing.
PRENTICE: Charlie, this spring…this summer…with as many people as possible doing the right thing, it certainly has the potential to be a season like no other. It’s not just like we’re coming out of winter, but almost a two-year winter.
FEE: That’s exactly how it feels throughout the company. All levels of our society, from the acting company to the production. Our audiences, our subscribers. this and a full season of plays and opening in mid-May. I expect us to come back to a world where we can just see each other, see each other’s real faces, you know, and enjoy our theater experience. And like it’s the good old days and it’s so exciting.
PRENTICE: Can you take us for a moment or two behind the scenes of Much Ado? How are you approaching it this year?
FEE: Much Ado is absolutely one of my favorite plays in the Shakespearean canon, absolutely without a doubt, and I’ve only directed it once before. Very early in my career in Idaho in 1994, I think that was, yeah, a long time ago. It is a room that contains absolutely all kinds of experiences. There’s a very dark undercurrent that we constantly have to fight against in the play, okay, the characters are and we’re settling in the 1920s. George, you know, the 2020s kinda turns out like the 1920s in a creepy, kind of fun way. And sometimes, you know, we look back to the 1920s and they had just come out of the Spanish flu pandemic. Law? And the wars were finally over, and people suddenly felt free and a little crazy. I think from those experiences and how I think we’re starting to feel here, you know, and underneath all of that there were issues that we knew were coming for us. So Much Ado has all of these sensibilities.
PRENTICE: I think of Much Ado and I think of the victory of truth over deception.
FEE: Yes, that’s exactly it. And so this current that we find in the rooms, but especially in a lot of noise, is really what rumor can do to us, what as we would say today, fake news can do to us and what they can do is destroy your life. Yeah. But in Shakespeare’s hands there are two parallel plots. A plot rumor is used to destroy love, then another plot. Rumor has it that Kindle likes to grow it, and so strangely, Shakespeare is able to show two completely different effects of this community coming together and playing tricks on each other, isn’t it?
PRENTICE: And your production designers must be having fun with the 1920s.
FEE: We love the 20s. You know, it’s such a great time, and it has this great advantage too. Women are starting to wear pants, aren’t they? And it’s just such a relief for women, you know, it’s like… no corsets, those are gone, right? Huge freedom in their ability to dress as they wish. And of course, we are installed in an Italian villa in southern Italy in Messina with the governor of Messina. And it’s. It really is the war that has just ended.
PRENTICE: Let’s see, then you’ll have Ain’t Misbehavin’.
FEE: Yes, these are shows that we have been organizing since 2020, right? Ain’t Misbehavin was meant to follow a lot of noise, so Ain’t Misbehavin is a brilliant, thrilling and thrilling musical exploration of the great music of Fats Waller and the Harlem Renaissance, and we have a fantastic cast, and Jerry McIntyre, our director, is one of the best choreographic directors in the country today, with a long acting experience in New York and on Broadway and a wonderful man. And so he’s going to lead our Our Ain’t Misbehavin, and I think that’s just going to knock the joint off, right?
PRENTICE: Okay, so what are the other three shows?
FEE: We’re back to Shakespeare after Ain’t Misbehavin. Sarah Bruner is going to direct Romeo and Juliet, right? His first production of Romeo and Juliet 4 for the main stage. She, of course, played Juliet for us. She even played Mercutio at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and she loves Romeo and Juliet. I think you’ll talk to him soon.
PRENTICE: And you have another musical coming up.
PRENTICE: And then after Romeo and Juliet. We’re off to Little Shop of Horrors, one of our favorite medium-sized musical casts, based on the title horror movie and a man eating plants. What can I tell you? And all that and all that wonderful music from that. And then from that musical, we jump straight into 39 Step, the play based on Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a fast-changing show, somewhat reminiscent of Complete Works… and Alfred Hitchcock, and led by our wonderful choreographer Jackie Miller, who is making his directorial debut with the company. And we’re just excited and thrilled that she has this opportunity to step into a place, a room that she loves.
PRENTICE: Charlie, I’ve known you ever since. Well, I was going to say too many years, but I feel if there’s such a thing as a twinkle in your voice that I haven’t heard in a while, it’s very inviting and anticipatory.
FEE: And you know, we’ve known each other for a long time and me and I appreciate that so much. I’ll tell you, those two years have been brutal for everyone, haven’t they? I mean, it’s just hard and it’s hard when you’re the leader of a company to know that you can’t put your people to work properly. All these artists in our company and I couldn’t do anything but talk to them and, you know, tell them, don’t worry, we’re going to be fine now. We are fully back to work.
PRENTICE: Well, summer can’t come soon enough… which is May. In the meantime, all the best to you, your colleagues, your company.
FE: Thank you George. And if I could just shout, we’re going to start selling single tickets on April 1st. And if you’re still thinking about a subscription, buy it before the single tickets go on sale because tickets will go fast, everyone. So get started as soon as you can. Thanks George. I look forward to seeing you at the amphitheater.
PRENTICE: Have a safe trip to you.
FEE: Thank you.
Find journalist George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren
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