Shakespeare’s plays are often best served outside, perhaps with a cool breeze to chase away the summer heat. The great outdoors is part of the magic of the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, an annual program that involves blue shimmering lake waters serving as the ultimate stage backdrop. Rae Matthews, the festival’s community engagement manager, said it’s no wonder the lakeside setting feels right. The Bard wrote his plays with an outdoor stage in mind and actors performing under the stars, she said. There’s no doubt the scenic stage at Sand Harbor in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park is one of the more picturesque theatrical settings around, with productions often accompanied by a glorious sunset, she added.
The festival’s 2017 season runs July 8 through Aug. 27 and features an additional week of performances of both Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, and a hilarious Sherlock Holmes whodunit called The Hound of the Baskervilles, adapted from the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel, by Steven Canny and John Nicholson. The plays will be performed in rotating repertory Tuesdays through Sundays at 7:30pm. Theatergoers save when they buy two tickets, one for the Holmes play and the other for the Shakespeare fare. Children and young aspiring actors can get in on the fun, too. Each year the D.G. Menchetti Young Shakespeare Program presents an interactive, one-hour adaptation of the featured plays with young audiences in mind. The InterACT school-based workshops give young performers a chance to take part, too. Further, the festival’s Showcase Series augments main stage productions, offering live music and entertainment from a variety of genres.For Benicia theater lovers, taking in a play during the summer run may require some advance planning, plus about four hours of driving. But Lake Tahoe is not too far to make a weekend of it, Matthews said, and tour packages are available. Sand Harbor and the state park are seven miles south of
Incline Village, which boasts a slate of cool restaurants plus a few hotels. Patrons can also bring their own food and drink for picnicking, or they can dine al fresco at the on-site restaurant, Shakespeare’s Kitchen. Theater seating options include dining tables near the stage, and less expensive ground seats on a sandy hill that afford generous lake views. Be sure to bring blankets, evenings can be chilly. In its 45th
year, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare today brings in professional performers from New York and San Francisco. The festival began in 1972 at Lake Tahoe’s Sugar Pine Point State Park with eight performances. Four years later, it moved to Sand Harbor, with Shakespeare as the main ingredient. In this year’s features, the romantic comedy, Love’s Labour’s Lost, tells the story of a king who decrees his court be free of women so that he and his men can study without distraction. Things go awry and hysterics follow when a beautiful princess and her entourage pay a visit. The Sherlock Holmes play promises a suspenseful night in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when the great detective and his trusty assistant Watson are summoned to unravel and investigate an ancient curse. In amazing feats of acting, just three actors create dozens of characters. The theatrical adventure is packed with a whirlwind of verbal and visual ingenuity.
Festival tickets can be purchased online at LakeTahoeShakespeare.com or via phone at 800.74.SHOWS. The website also contains a list of FAQ’s and other information for planning a visit.