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May 26, 2010
By Kathie Taylor
This year, the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival takes on national significance with the addition of artistic director, Charles Fee. Fee is also the artistic director for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in Boise, Idaho and the Great Lakes Theatre Festival in Cleveland, Ohio.
The unprecedented marriage of three geographically diverse theatre companies is a shining example of people coming together to keep the arts alive and vibrant in tough economic times.
“It’s truly genius,” Rob Gander, associate professor and chair of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Speech Communication and Theatre department, said. “Synchronicity between companies is a reverse trend of the traditional schadenfreude between theatre companies. In the given economy where theatre companies are closing down across the country, it will provide full-time jobs for actors.”
And, as in years past, the Festival is partnering with the University. Students have served as understudies and actors, set construction, lighting and costume design. This year, the competition for internships is fiercer, due to the increased opportunities to travel with the company.
“The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is a Nevada gem,” Gander said. “Collaboration like this means the long-term health of the theatre company is stronger. “It’s very rare for University students to get professional experience like this,” Gander said. “I would guess maybe a quarter of universities have affiliations with professional companies.”
University senior Benn Dyer interned with the Festival last year as a carpenter, gaining valuable professional experience. Dyer started at the beginning of set construction, handling set changes during shows, changeover between productions, and worked all the way through striking the set at the end of the season.
Dyer, the first University student hired this year by the Festival, will work this summer as set electrician. Working with the festival last year, he said, gave him invaluable experience.
“My experiences with the University theatre department and the Nevada Repertory Company [the production arm of the University’s theatre department] have been great, because we all have the same all-encompassing goal,” he said. “Interning with the Shakespeare Festival gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the country. It’s changed me in ways I couldn’t even imagine.”
This year’s planned production is a comedic piece called “The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged.” Performances begin July 9. The Festival also brings back its popular music series Monday and Friday evenings beginning July 12. Tickets are now available online at Lake Tahoe Shakespeare or by calling 800-74-SHOWS (800-747-4697).