About the only thing on stage at Idaho Shakespeare Festival right now is the occasional snowflake. Yet the home fires are burning behind the scenes as the pieces come together for the 2011 season. Early-bird tickets go on sale Thanksgiving weekend.
Next year will mark Charlie Fee's 20th season as producing artistic director with ISF. He is also producing artistic director of Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland and Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival in Nevada.
How is the company doing financially?
We're doing fine. Because, quite frankly, we're good at planning. 2008 was, like for everybody else, down a bit. 2009 saw a bigger drop. In 2010, we are actually up on season tickets, but single tickets came down a little bit, so we came out fine. We've been in the black for 15 seasons straight. These last few years, we tightened and tightened and tightened, and we managed to cut a lot of expenses.
But for 2011, I've picked a giant, populist season. I do feel we can plan for, push for and hope for real growth this coming season.
You'll open the season next June when you direct Two Gentlemen of Verona.
A big, big Shakespeare comedy, because we're looking for the big comedies to anchor our season.
Are you at a stage where you're considering a cast for Two Gents?
I went into Two Gents thinking I had the key players set. I actually ended up with none of them. I chose to go forward anyway. It's exciting for us as a company because now I have an opportunity to cast the four lead roles with four young actors who haven't been working with us for the last few years, or perhaps ever.
Do you have open auditions?
Yes. Our union requires it. We plan to audition in Chicago in December and Los Angeles in January.
You'll be directing the second production as well, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).
We had a blast with this show last summer in Lake Tahoe. I didn't know this past summer whether we would bring the show here to Idaho. It's fun but also a little scary because I've got a number of open roles to cast.
Third will be the season's big musical.
Cabaret is a spectacular, dramatic piece of musical theater as opposed to traditional musical comedy. It's set in a time [pre World War II] and a place [Germany] fraught with danger. I'm interested in engaging our audiences into an experience with musicals that are deeper than traditional fare.
Have you thought about who you will cast in the lead roles?
Eduardo Placer [Puck in 2010's A Midsummer Night's Dream] will play the emcee. Jodi Dominick [the baker's wife in 2008's Into the Woods] will play Sally Bowles.
And your fourth production will be another Shakespeare comedy, The Taming of the Shrew.
I chose this for two reasons. First, I picked it for Sara Bruner [2011 will be Bruner's 15th season with ISF]. This will be a very different kind of role for her. Sara has played so many different ingenues and women in the Shakespeare canon: Rosalind, Viola, Juliet, Desdemona, Ophelia. But she's never really had this opportunity. This is a great role for her at this point in her career.
Plus simultaneously, I met a new director at the Shakespeare festival in Ashland, Ore., Tracy Young. She directed a 2009 production of The Servant of Two Masters, which I adored. I told her, "We have to work together." So I have a new director with a style I just love: wildly improvisational with a deep background in physicality and commedia dell'arte. And Shrew sort of feels like that. So this is a very good match. Bringing a woman as a director to this play introduces a very different sensibility, because Shrew is considered the ultimate battle of the sexes story. Tracy is brilliant and I'm very excited about bringing a new director into the team.
And the fifth production will be The 39 Steps.
It's so much fun. Four actors play all the characters. So, it'll be a quick-change show. It's a theatrical form that is a blast for our audiences but it's technically very difficult. Because it's based on the classic novel and the Alfred Hitchcock film, it brings together a 1930s period sensibility that's a wild romp.
Do you seriously consider building a second stage someday?
Yes. All the time. But it's still not the moment to launch a major campaign. That day will come. Building a new theater would be a big undertaking and you really have to plan carefully for that.