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The Bard returns to the beach

Wendy Lautner
Special to Sun News Service
Emma Garrand/Sun News ServiceOlivia, played by Karyn Casl, holds out her hand as Sir Toby Belch, played by Greg Bryan, gives her a kiss during rehearsals for Twelfth Night at Sand Harbor Friday night.
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With only four days to go until opening night, an excited cast and crew are busily preparing for the 34th annual Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. The festival will be performed on the outdoor stage at the Sand Harbor Amphitheater.

With the addition of Monday night shows this year, audiences have the opportunity to see 39 performances ” the longest season of continuous Shakespeare at the lake yet. And so far the festival is 42 percent ahead in ticket sales in comparison to last year.

Rotating between the comic “Twelfth Night,” the dark and dramatic “Othello” and the outrageously wacky “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Abridged,” the playlist this year offers theatre-goers an unprecedented variety on stage. “For us the highlight is that this is the second year we’re doing a tragedy,” said Scott Gilbert, director of “Othello” and artistic director of the Foothill Theatre Company. “For ‘Othello’ we’re doing something very dark and gritty. The play is about the dark alleys in people’s minds. It’s about jealousy, love, trickery and the things that human beings do to each other. It’s very much like what’s on TV or what’s in politics, so I think that once the audience gets used to the language they’ll be pulled into the story and will be able to relate. Othello is a play with a lot of famous acts of violence so I think it’s going to be interesting for people to see how we’re actually going to kill everybody off.”



Both “Othello” and “The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged,” a speedy synopsis of Shakespeare’s works, will be performed for the first time at the Sand Harbor Amphitheater.

“I’m anxious to see the audience’s reaction to ‘Othello’,” said actor Reginald Jackson, who will make his debut at this year’s festival as the character of Othello in “Othello” and Valentine in “Twelfth Night.” “‘Othello’ is a very personal, intimate and out-of-the-ordinary emotional experience. It’s just the human story of these people and the battle for a person’s soul.”



Jackson joins a company of talented and experienced actors handpicked from Seattle to Los Angeles.

“It’s a great company of actors,” said Nancy Carlin, director of “Twelfth Night” and an affiliate artist with the Foothill Theatre Company. “We have some of the core members of the Foothill Company who I’ve known and loved for years, and actors from the Bay Area that I’ve been glad to be able to bring up this year. I think we’ve culled a really great company of actors.”

Carlin returns to Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival for her second season, after directing “Romeo and Juliet” seven years ago, to fulfill a dream of hers in the production of the “Twelfth Night.”

“I’m mostly excited because of this vision that I’ve had of this particular play that’s been in my head for a number of years,” she said. “I’ve had this kind of fantasy of this yellow submarine, pepper land inspired by the pop art of Peter Mack’s and by some of the music of the Beatles without being literal, but just the spirit of that and the color palette of that and what the theme’s in this play are.”

“Twelfth Night,” written in the same three-year period as “Othello,” “Macbeth” and “King Lear,” is a tangled web of ill-starred love triangles, mistaken identities and interesting subplots.

“‘Twelfth Night’ is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and all of the themes ” the longing, the love ” there are just so many wonderful things going on in this play. To have this vision in my head of how I want it to look and sound and the kind of music I wanted to have and to see that come to life with a great company is thrilling to me.”

All of the drama, excitement, comedy and romance of this year’s plays is amplified by the actors’ excitement of performing an incredible venue as Sand Harbor.

“I’ve been coming her for seven years and I love it,” said Karen Casl, who plays Bianca in “Othello” and Olivia in “Twelfth Night.” “I think I’ve had the most fun performing here out of anywhere in my career. It’s an incredibly responsive audience and the surroundings are wonderful.”

Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival opens July 13 and will run every night through Aug. 20. Tickets are available by calling (775) 298-0020 or by visiting http://www.laketahoeshakespeare.com. Theatre gates open for all seating sections at 5:30 p.m., curtain time is 7:30 p.m. for every performance seven nights a week.


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