Stitch Marker has one of the most recognizable faces in Boise—but then he should, considering he's in his 29th season with Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
Marker has played everyone from peasant to villain to king to comic relief and earned a place in the collective consciousness of area theater-goers in the process. He's been part of the beloved summer festival since the very beginning and watched the valley's theater scene transform over the decades from the vantage point of the stage.
What drew you to theater?
I was chronically shy ... and I just sort of ended up in a drama class almost accidentally ... and ended up in a play and I was terrified. I didn't talk to people much on a one-on-one basis, let alone in front of a whole group of people. But this acting coach I had was just so wonderful. He really coached us about getting into a role, letting the role sort of take you over, and it was so liberating I couldn't believe it. I think one of the first things I played was sort of a really assertive, aggressive, bullyish sort of a guy, and it felt great. It felt so liberating. I had permission to just let 'er bust, and I was just hooked from that point on out.
How did you get involved with Idaho Shakespeare Festival?
When I started here at [Boise State] in 1970, there really wasn't any kind of professional, or, I think, even semi-professional theater going on in Boise at that time. ... I was just really fortunate to be in a class with a bunch of people who were really motivated theater people who were frustrated and wanted to get out on their own and do something exciting.
So that core group of people started this theater we called Theater in a Trunk in a warehouse on 16th and Bannock. And out of that came the people who essentially started Idaho Shakespeare Festival. ... Originally we were talking about doing Hair as a first production, but that was like a $10,000 royalty, blah, blah, and we were like, "Oh, real theater costs money? Well, we can't do real theater then." We just decided on Shakespeare because it was dead and free.
What do you remember about your first performance?
What I just loved--what knocked me out--was the original location for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival was at Ray's Oasis, which is now Angell's. ... At that time, they didn't have any of the trappings on the patio for the restaurant, so it was just bare space out there. Outside of acting on hard concrete, it was just perfect, just wonderful--lots of really cool entrances and exits and just the environment was really magnificent to do a big play. We'd have to block off the streets in downtown and people would get so pissed off at us. They'd run barricades and yell at us and call us names because, of course, we're in tights. So we got a lot of verbal abuse that way. But when you weren't in a scene, a lot of the time you were up on one of the streets ... just averting traffic.
How would you say Boise's theater scene has changed and where is it now?
I think Idaho Shakespeare Festival was a real pivot point for the direction of theater in the Treasure Valley. In the '70s, it became apparent that "Yeah, there's an audience here that's willing to pay and support a professional theater," and so that was really the biggest door opening. ... Touring, that was a really huge thing that I thought the festival was really smart to take on--educational, school-outreach tours. So that was maybe my favorite job I've ever had.
Do people still recognize you from that?
It's shocking, and they're getting quite old themselves--"Really, you saw me in high school and you're how old? 50?"
Why do you think the festival is so loved?
Just from the very first year, from the get-go, it was not just doing a play, it was an event. It was where you could go and have a picnic, eat and hang out on the lawn and drink, be as verbose as you wanted to be--be as sloppy drunk as you wanted to be.
What keeps you going back?
It's the scariest fun anybody could ever have. I think it's absolutely terrifying almost every time. You kind of get hooked on the fear. It's such a gratifying feeling.
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