The works of William Shakespeare have been watched, studied — and loved — for literally centuries.
And let’s be honest: Whether they were introduced to the Bard’s work by a dry-as-dust teacher in high school, or just don’t see the plays’ relevance in the fast-moving 21st-century, there are those who aren’t quite sure about Shakespeare.
But the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, a professional theater company in residence at the University of Colorado Boulder, has something to offer both types and everyone in between. Whether it’s mayhem, mirth — even murder — onstage at the incomparable Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre on the CU-Boulder campus, the experience of watching professional actors onstage on a summer evening is, quite simply, magical.
“There’s nothing quite like attending a play at the festival,” says Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “Sitting with your fellow travelers beneath the stars at the historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, with the famous Flatirons hovering to the west, is an unforgettable experience.”
If you love Shakespeare, CSF is a real treat. Not only does the company produce the enduring classics — from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to “Macbeth” to “A Comedy of Errors” — but also less well-known Shakespeare works, modern explorations of his influence, and beloved contemporary plays such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Little Prince.”
“We’ve added work by playwrights from other cultures and other centuries who have made significant contributions to our understanding of the human condition,” says Producing Artistic Director Philip Sneed.
Founded in 1958, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is the second-oldest company of its kind in the United States. Drawing some of the nation’s top acting, directing and stagecraft talent from around the country, CSF has featured such well-known talents as Val Kilmer, Annette Bening, Michael Moriarty and Jimmy Smits. In addition, the festival helps develop tomorrow’s stars through its work with advanced students from CU’s Department of Theatre & Dance.
Besides its annual lineup of shows on the historic outdoor stage, CSF also presents plays on the newly renovated University Theatre Mainstage. The smaller, indoor setting creates an intimate, moving, theater-going experience. Before the shows, patrons may enjoy a beer or soft drink, catered meal or picnic while being entertained by wandering minstrels and other “green show” performers on a broad, shady lawn at the heart of Boulder’s beautiful CU campus.
The summer 2012 season features one of the Bard’s funniest and most accessible comedies, “Twelfth Night,” as well as “Richard III,” — a play full of intrigue featuring Shakespeare’s most Machiavellian monarch — and Ken Ludwig’s thrilling adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s original pirate epic, “Treasure Island,” all on the Rippon stage. “Noises Off” — deemed by many critics the funniest play written in the last half century — will star on the University Theatre Mainstage. And in a special treat, famed Shakespearean Tina Packer brings her five-play cycle, “Women of Will,” an exploration of the Bard’s evolution through his female characters, to a stage outside Massachusetts for the first time.
CSF also is proud to bring its outreach and education programs into the community throughout the year. In 2011-12, its innovative anti-bullying program based on “Twelfth Night” was seen by more than 11,000 Colorado school children. Camp Shakespeare for young actors offers the opportunity to learn theater craft from professionals — and even perform on the Rippon stage. In 2011, CSF performed Shakespeare a la Carte, a meal featuring snippets from the plays — and plenty of surprises — for the first time in the United States, and will bring an encore performance to Chautauqua this summer.