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"The service and loyalty I owe, in doing it, pays itself." Macbeth I.iv

January 27th, 2012

Rules of the Road: We’ve just finished the second full official day of touring, and I thought I’d take a moment to give you a glimpse of what being on the road means. These are our “rules” by that, I mean, these are things that make all of our lives a lot easier on the road, both as an acting company and as friends traveling together. So, in no particular order, other than the first rule is the most important and most often used rule:

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The Rules of Shakespearience:
  • If somebody wants a Twinkie, stop and get them a stinking Twinkie! This is a rule we have inherited and respected from the late, great Danny Peterson, who used to do this same tour some years ago. Basically, this rule is if someone says, “Hey, I’d really like to stop and get a bite to eat.” or, “Gosh I could really use a coffee.” or even, “I need to read the newest issue of Vogue RIGHT NOW!” Just oblige. Everyone will be a lot happier in the long run if everyone’s needs are met on the road.
  • No texting while driving; actually, no anything while driving other than driving. That’s why there are passengers, to help you navigate, DJ, man the walkie-talkies, call schools to let them know the roads are icy but we will be there soon, etc.
  • If you see a cologne dispenser in a road-side restroom, don’t put a quarter in there and assume to get a mini bottle out of it. It just sprays you. Right in the face, if you’re not regular trucker height. Veronica learned this the hard way. Then the rest of her van mates learned it the hard way with her.
  • Never hit the road without making sure Luke has had a coffee, and Dakotah a food (see rule 1).
  • Always lock the vehicles. Always.
  • Leaving fifteen minutes before the scheduled departure time is leaving on time.
  • Tour buddies eat together whenever possible. We try to eat together once a tour day, even when we’re not out of town. It’s a good time to talk about the show and how things are going.
  • Minivan always leads the Penske truck, unless we’re driving back roads at night, then the Penske leads because it’s more likely to survive hitting an animal that the mini van.
  • Never snap at each other during load-in or load-outs. You’re either going to realize how silly the thing you were mad about was in five minutes, or you’ll forget about it entirely.
  • Don’t break the seal. Meaning, don’t pee until you really have to. If you break that seal too early, you’ll just have to go every thirty minutes, and on a ten hour drive, that’s just rough.
  • If you fall asleep in the minivan at anytime, you must be Von Tobled (meaning Veronica will take a picture of you sleeping and immediately post it to Facebook).
  • You must get the free, fresh baked cookies from the Comfort Inn promptly at 8pm each evening. If you do not, you are a fool.
  • BYOP. (Bring your own pillow).
  • Take up knitting. Yeah. Knitting. Only one tour member this year has yet to learn, give me two hours and this will be remedied.
  • Bring a swimsuit.
  • Never trust Google maps implicitly. The successful tour uses Google maps, an Atlas and, this year, a GPS.
  • If you can’t find something… did you check your ditty bag? (It’s a bag that hangs with your costume that holds small costume items, glasses, phone props, bracelets, etc.)
  • If you get to drive the van in town, you drop off the dry cleaning.
  • Wash your costume regularly. No one wants to be the smelly kid on tour.
  • Always bring your road kit, in-town show or out. Actor’s road kit includes: Water, Ricola. Emergen-C, AirBorne, Water, Tums, Chapstick, hand sanitizer, ThroatCoat Tea, IBProfen and water.
  • In Pocatello, you go to Buddy’s and you get a salad. In Sandpoint, you go to Eichardts and get anything (or everything) and you always take the suggestions of the locals. Always. (Especially if that suggestion is, “You really shouldn’t take that road at night.”)

-SG

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Shakespearience Macbeth Week 2 Video

January 23rd, 2012

Shakespearie

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nce cast of Macbeth shares their thoughts on week 2 of rehearsal.

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Macbeth: Blood, Sweat, and Fears

January 18th, 2012

We are now,

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officially in full swing of rehearsals for Shakespearience's Macbeth. “Why, Whatever is this Shakespearience of which you speak?” one may ask, if they spoke in a very formal manner. Well, I could tell you, but it's a rather lengthy explanation, and it turns out someone has already done all of that for me. Basically, it's a bunch of really cool organizations (click here to check out the list of awesome supporters) stepping in to make sure everyone who would usually never get to see Shakespeare, gets to see some Shakespeare! Shakespearience is wonderful for a multitude of reasons, but mostly, right now… Guess who's got two thumbs and isn't waiting tables? This girl! That's right friends, I'm making money doing what I love more than anything in the world, and things are starting to look up.

I thought I'd devote a little time to break down exactly what being in rehearsals means. It's only recently become apparent to me exactly how foreign the theater world is to those of you who have “real people jobs” (meaning that you either have an office/cubicle, you spend a large portion of the day looking at the computer or you work from 9a-5p (or more, in some cases, days a week). Similarly, how foreign having a real person job would be to me.

In case you didn't follow the link above, this particular production is a condensed version of Macbeth which is focused on making the play accessible for high school audiences (more on that later). The day-in-the-life picture of the rehearsal process looks something like this:

Get up early. Warm up my body. Coffee. Not too much. I'm thankful every day for the espresso machine my sister and brother-in-law gave me for my graduation. It's saved me a lot of money on early tour mornings, and likely a few heart palpitations. Go to rehearsal around 8:10. We're very lucky, it's about a seven minute walk to the space, and taken briskly is an excellent warm up. Set up. Set up involves putting coffee on in the office (where the admins have real people jobs and work in a theater! Amazing!) Getting out weapons and putting the set together… er… what we have of the set so far. This year it's two ladders, a ten foot tall rolling staircase, and three large flats to hide us when we're not onstage. Then; rehearsing.

Need more coffee perhaps....

Right. What does that mean? Our main job as actors (not to mentions the director, set designers, sound designers, costume designers, etc.) is to tell a story. To tell a story that's over four hundred years old in a way that's very clear to understand to you, the audience. As actors, we know our lines and mostly know what they mean (certainly will by the time we open) So the main job of rehearsal is to make things clear. We run scenes, work scenes to figure out how a certain moment can be more clear, or more specific, figure out how to indicate the passage of time from one scene to the next without saying, “Meanwhile, back at the Macduff's house…”. Our job is to let you know what's going on so you can sit back and enjoy the story, because that's really what this is all about; the story.

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So. We rehearse for six hours, with two ten minute breaks and one twenty minute break. We work on the timing of our entrances. Dissecting exactly what we're saying, working different moves with umbrellas (lots of umbrellas in this world of Macbeth), tracking where props go, figuring out who will be backstage to hit a sound cue, etc.

At the ready.

We go on like this for three weeks, which never feels like enough time, but we always pull through. This year, however, we missed the first three days because designers were brought in from out of town, our fight choreographer couldn't make it yet, etc.

So. That's pretty much rehearsal life. It goes by pretty quick, and we'll be on the road performing in one week from today, which is an entirely different job and thereby, will have an entirely different blog post.

Umbrellas!

And I suppose I owe you an explanation for the not-so-positive-sounding-post-title.

Blood: Rehearsal does not come without muscle soreness or bruising. My legs are coated in bruises from different fights (let it be noted that I may be the only one, as I bruise much like a well ripened peach). I did also gash my thumb open on a particularly ornery umbrella.

Sweat: Aside from the menial “work-out” I've been doing in the morning, Shakespearience shows are marathon acting. If you have anytime backstage, you are not resting, you are doing a quick change, running a sound cue and helping someone else with a quick change. Usually all within fifteen seconds.

Fears: Actors are sensitive. It really is true. We put ourselves into a job that opens us up for criticism and rejection from every angle, Also, considering we’ll be performing for a high school audience, usually around 8am, it sometimes can seem like an uphill battle. Seriously, do you remember being ready to be thoroughly entertained by an assembly at 8am when you were in high school? It's nerve wracking and sometimes devastating, but it is so entirely and absolutely rewarding.

-SG

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"I have begun to plant thee…" Duncan, 1.4

January 9th, 2012

The first we

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ek of rehearsals have come to a close and things have started to take shape. This is a part of the process where the production is full of possibility and mystery and potential. It’s a little crazy to think we only have two more full weeks of rehearsing left before out first preview performance, but our fights are choreographed, and the first quarter of the show is roughly blocked out and in all of our little actor bodies and minds. I think most of us wish we could go back to rehearsal tomorrow instead of having a day off, but breaks are good for you, even if you don’t want to take one, right?

As we leave our first week of rehearsal on simmer, we’ll leave you with a few more photos and a little end of the week video.


Noah and Dakotah, lookin' fierce from fightin'? Check!

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Director and Assistant Director/Stage Management playing with a strange object? Check!



Rolling stairs? Check!


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Charles Fee on The City Club of Cleveland

January 6th, 2012

Download the podcast from the live broadcast show from January 6th by clicking here.

January 6, 2012 featuring Charles Fee, Producing Artistic Director, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival.

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Charles Fee, of the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, discusses the rewards and challenges of simultaneously serving as Producing Artistic Director for three professional theater companies in three different states.

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Shakespearience: Macbeth. First Blog Post!

January 5th, 2012

This time of year is probably the most exciting for those of us headed out on the Shakespearience 2012 tour. True, winter is starting to get even colder, the sun doesn't seem to stay up nearly long enough, and all of the really exciting winter holidays have passed–but for us, today marked the very first day of rehearsal!  A day most of us have been looking forward to with eager anticipation since at least December, when we were officially cast (If not since last year's tour ended and we went through some major Shakespearience withdrawals.) And so, without further ado, allow me to introduce the cast of Shakespearience 2012's Macbeth:

 

Yes. We are all aware that we look ridiculous.

 

Early this afternoon we set out to meet with our really super fantastic fight choreographer, Michael Mueller, who brought a variety of (very real, but very much dulled) weapons. We spent two hours wielding everything from daggers to fancy looking foils to machetes to bowie knives. Now, I hate to be that person, but I now feel obligated to put this* here (see bottom for details).

Our fights are far from done, but we learned a great deal about what it takes to properly and safely stage a pretty awesome looking fight today. After fights, there was a photo shoot for our promotional pictures (coming to your school or city soon!).

Meet the Macbeths

 

You won't be seeing this shot, of course, this is a “fun one” I snapped of Luke and Veronica while the photographer was changing his batteries or something.

Tomorrow, we look forward to our first “official”, and full day of rehearsal, which means we get there at 10AM, we'll meet with designers and they'll show us what sort of world they've created with our director for these characters to inhabit (what they'll wear, where they'll be, what sounds will surround them), then we'll start the rehearsing. We'll break for the day at 4p, head home and individually go over our lines and what we did in rehearsal that day, making sure it sticks for the next day. Rest assured, many of our homes look something like this right now:

A full script, our cut script, and Shakespeare-specific dictionaries.
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We're all in heavy study mode, memorizing, interpreting, brainstorming and mostly, being really excited about what will come from all of this. Shakespearience for us not only means that we get to explore a new (or in Dakotah's case, re-visit a new) Shakespeare play, but it also means that the five of us are going to spend the next thirteen weeks traveling together, sharing living quarters with each other, eating together, relying on each other and mostly, working together to uphold the integrity of this performance, whatever it ends up being.

So, a little different from prior years, this year the cast is planning on documenting a lot more. Well, a lot more publicly. In the next few weeks keep your eyes open for some videos, plenty more photos, fun on the Idaho Shakespeare Festival Facebook fan page (click here for ISF Fan Page), food reviews from the casts very own chicken fried steak connoisseur, and hopefully a lot more! For now, I leave you with other “fun ones” I snapped today while the photographer was taking actual photos.

*Do not attempt to do any kind of fight choreography without a trained professional. Michael has degrees is this stuff (yup! You can get a degree in stage combat!) Any weapon, dull or not, is still just that: a weapon.

 

Luke, looking very Sweeney Todd
MacB's got some serious secrets.

 

That's it for today. More photos and other fun things to come!

 

Dakotah Brown

 

-S.G.

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Review: The 39 Steps to Hilarity at ISF

September 8th, 2011

Boise Weekly

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A slapstick take on Hitchcock's international espionage adventure
by Deanna Darr

Take one Alfred Hitchcock thriller inspired by a classic 1930s espionage mystery, turn it on its head and fill it with equal parts smart and silly humor, and you get The 39 Steps, Idaho Shakespeare Festival's closing show of the 2011 season.

The result is a fun, light and humorous production that fully embraces slapstick comedy. With a cast of ISF veterans–including David Anthony Smith, Joe Conley Golden, Richard Klautsch and Kathryn Cherasaro–the minimalist staging and production is the perfect nightcap to another theater season, leaving audiences with warm and fuzzy memories that will linger as they look back.

The 39 Steps is the tale of an idle Englishman who is pulled into an international espionage adventure after a chance run-in with a mysterious woman who is murdered in his flat. He is pegged for the crime and heads off across the countryside to try and uncover the truth. That's where the comparison to the well-loved Hitchcock thriller ends.

The four actors portray more than 100 over-the-top characters to create a tale that is far more farce than mystery. The chemistry and talent of the cast are essential to the production, and the actors' easy rapport with the audience creates a communal atmosphere that gives the distinct feel that they're sharing an exciting story around a campfire.

With quick, witty dialogue that is in line with the exaggerated nature of film noir, the actors have their hands full, but it's all the more fun for the audience.

Anyone who saw ISF's 2010 season closer, The Woman in Black, will likely feel a sense of deja vu when they see The 39 Steps' minimalist set, which uses structural metal elements to outline the world of the play. While the simplest props form a door frame, a set of wooden boxes, ladders and window molding are catalysts for the audience's imagination, letting each person fill in the blanks with guidance from the cast. It's a wonderful example of how a strong script and good actors can be enough to weave a well-told tale.

But if there were an award given for the best use of box fans and a fog machine, this production would be the hands-down winner. A full wall of fans forms the back of the set and not only helps move the comically copious amounts of fog around, but is easily transformed into a plethora of objects thanks to some creative and effective lighting design.

The 39 Steps is a laugh-out-loud production and it seems clear that this play is as much fun for the cast and crew as it is for the audience

Click to read at Boise Weekly.

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"Taming of the Shrew" with a twist

August 11th, 2011

By D

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© 2011 Idaho Press-Tribune
BOISE — Stuck in the ‘80s and lovin’ it.

This is Shakespeare like you’ve never seen it before and like only our friends at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival can deliver it … with zeal, side-splitting humor, sensitive emotion and incredible physicality.

Director Tracy Young made her ISF debut last weekend when the festival premiered its month-long run of William Shakespeare’s comedy classic “Taming of the Shrew.”

Young promised surprises and she and the talented ensemble certainly delivered. She blends together familiar pop tunes, some outrageously colorful costumes, and an equally eye-popping set. References to Olivia Newton John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” a sassy Robert Palmer number to the tune “Simply Unbelievable,” complete with those iconic background singers in skin-tight black dresses, are only a couple of the ‘80s references weaved into this show.

The plot

Katherina and Bianca are the two daughters of wealthy merchant, Baptista. But, Katherina has a shrewish disposition and her father is determined that Bianca will not be wed until her older sister is.

While suitors scheme and scam for the affections of Bianca, Petruchio of Verona pays a visit to his friend Horensio (one of Bianca’s suitors). He is intrigued by Katherina’s large dowry and is determined to woo her.

What ensues is a comical delight.

Petruchio, played with zeal by Jim Lichtscheidl, stuns everyone by saying he finds Katherina charming and pleasant. A marriage is arranged and Petruchio sets out to tame Katherina through a series of increasingly worse tricks.

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Petruchio achieves his goal and eventually tames Katherina … or does he? When Bianca and Lucentio are wed Petruchio wagers that his wife is the most obedient and Katherina lectures her sister on how to be a good and loving wife.

As always, Shakespeare’s complex characters leave the audience wondering.

ISF veteran actress Sara M. Bruner portrays “The Shrew” Katherina magnificently. She rants and raves, flings herself about and provides the play’s most poignant and thought-provoking dialogue in a superb performance.

The talented ensemble also includes Reggie Gowland as Lucentio, a suitor to Bianca; Neil Brookshire, who is brilliant in his role in ISF’s current run of “Cabaret,” plays Biondello the servant to Lucentio who masquerades as a tutor and suitor to Bianca; the always delightful Eduardo Placer as Horensio, another suitor to Bianca; Laura Perrotta, the rich widow who winds up with Horensio; Kjertsine Rose Anderson as the lovely but shallow Bianca; John Woodson as Batista Minola, a rich citizen of Padua and father to Bianca and Katherina; and Richard Klautsch in the role of Vincentio, father of Lucentio.

Click to read full article at Idaho Press Tribune

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Taming of the Shrew, Like Totally ISF's production channels 1980's Los Angeles

August 10th, 2011

Boise Weekly

by Deanna Darr

Idaho Shakespeare Festival's production of Taming of the Shrew may mark the first time the Bard's work has included the terms “douchebag” and “don't have a cow.”

Under the leadership of Tracy Young in her ISF directorial debut, the classic tale is ripped out of Padua, Italy, and dumped in the middle of 1980s Los Angeles, complete with all the ridiculousness of that time and place. From neon Spandex and popped collars to shoulder pads and big hair, the production is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to an era that those of us who lived through it are kind of glad is over.

The juxtaposition of '80s trends and terms with the classic script is a bit jarring at first. The comedy has the air of farce as '80s pop culture is laid out in an almost tribute to the decade of excess. But as the production progresses, it gains rhythm, especially with assistance from the iconic music of the era, which plays an integral role in helping to tell the story while creating a sense of nostalgia.

ISF veteran Sara M. Bruner takes the lead as Katherina, or Kate, the strong-willed daughter of a wealthy Hollywood resident. Her father has declared that no one will marry his Valley Girl-esque younger daughter Bianca (Kjerstine Rose Anderson) until Kate is married.

Lucentio (Reggie Gowland)–who is from a powerful Portland, Ore., family–arrives to see the wonders of Los Angeles, one of which turns out to be Bianca. He plans to win her heart by posing as a tutor. In the meantime, another of Bianca's suitors, Hortensio (Eduardo Placer), talks his old friend Petruchio (Jim Lichtscheidl)–freshly arrived from Montana–into wedding the shrew with the promise of the riches that come with the union. Cue the hilarity.

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ISF first-timer Lichtscheidl provides not only needed grounding but makes Petruchio a much more likeable character with more depth than the cock-sure, testosterone-poisoned character he is usually made out to be. This Petruchio has a softer and more thoughtful side. Initially, Bruner's Kate is played less as a headstrong woman and more like a bat-shit-crazy lunatic who should be committed. Thankfully, her portrayal becomes more measured in later acts.

The highly physical show has actors circling in and out of the audience, constantly chucking things at each other and breaking into random dance moments, all without dropping a line of the complex dialogue.

By the end of the performance, the audience is won over by the story's charm and the fact that the production owns its silliness as it ventures back to the 1980s and brings the audience along on a nostalgic trip.

Click here to read full article at Boise Weekly

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Review: Idaho Shakespeare Festival's "The Taming of the Shrew," offers tubular 80s version of the Bard’s angry Valley Girl

August 8th, 2011

BY DANA OLAND – doland@idahostatesman.com
Copyright: © 2011 Idaho Statesman
Published: 08/08/11

The 1980s are alive and well at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival this summer in director Tracy Young’s totally awesome take on Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” which opened Saturday to a nearly full house.


Photo by Chris Butler of Idaho Statesman

Young, a seasoned director in her ISF debut, doesn’t just restage Shakespeare’s play, she reinvents it for a contemporary audience, making choices along with her actors — principally Sara M. Bruner (Katherine) and Jim Lischtscheidl (Petruchio) — that mitigate many of the play’s problems.

Young freshens the text with lively and freewheeling use of ’80s idioms injected into the dialogue. She has fun with place: Lucentio (Reggie Gowland) isn’t from Pisa, but from Portland (Oregon one assumes), Petruchio is from the wilds of Montana, and lunch is served in Santa Monica. Young also replaces the play’s stock characters with 1980s icons and stereotypes: Indiana Jones, Ivana Trump and Madonna.

The ensemble cast is dynamic, with a mix of actors and dancers in the crew. They create wonderful moments outside of the two main stories that give the production much flavor, such as the four dancing bridesmaids, Philip Michael Carroll’s rendition of Tom Cruise’s “Old Time Rock-n-Roll” from “Risky Business,” and Eduardo Placer’s turn as a 1980s era Prince.

Using the play’s roots in commedia dell’arte, Young creates a rich physical language of slapstick and gesture that helps the story along.

In one scene, Lischtscheidl holds Bruner upside down. As Kate hangs on for dear life, Petruchio says “Give me your hand Kate,” which she does, but only too late realizes the complete meaning of his statement.

Musically, Young and sound designer Peter John Still put together a soundtrack that’s an MTV-athon, with everything from Duran Duran to Bob Seger, Prince to The Human League. It’s worth eating in the theater to enjoy the pre-show tunes.

The heart of the play, and why it is so good, comes from Bruner and Lischtscheidl’s portrayals of Kate and Petruchio.

Bruner’s Katherine, who dresses in post-Annie Hall style, is smart, independent and angry at the world. She rejects everything about the coming “Material Girl” image of the decade, which her sister Bianca (the delightful Kjerstine Rose Anderson) embraces.

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“Shrew” is still a problematic play because it uncomfortably brushes against our modern sense of equality. The idea that a husband must tame a woman to become his wife is abhorrent, yet in the world of the play, and in our own, becoming a spouse requires a major attitude adjustment.

Bruner adds layers to her Kate’s biting wit. She takes her time with Katherine’s final speech that admonishes Bianca, the Widow (Laura Perrotta), and the audience on how a wife should behave. Kate chooses her words carefully and with this thoughtful approach, it doesn’t come off that a woman’s place is obediently in the home as much as it is by the man she chooses to love. That wins her respect and Petruchio’s honest love, which Lischtscheidl expresses in a wonderfully romantic gesture that changes the tone of the ending.

Lischtscheidl’s Petruchio enters with less bravado and more uncertainty, giving him more humanity. He needs it because the play requires he also make adjustments. This is Lischtscheidl’s first season with ISF.

One of Young’s influences, the gritty drama “American Gigolo,” gives the play its setting in early 1980s Los Angeles, reflected in Michael Locher’s sleek industrial set. As locales change, we peek into windows to see fruit pop art, Patrick Nagel’s iconic prints of beautiful women, a cherry-red loveseat and other touches from the decade.

That’s one reason the play sits so well in the candied-pop, party-to-the-max world of 1980s Los Angeles. Call it the attitude adjustment decade.

Granted this play from the 16th century takes that adjustment to extremes, but the central questions still resonate: what does it takes to be in a real relationship, how much is it worth, and what will you sacrifice for it?

Alex Jaeger’s costumes are a hoot and hit the true style of the decade, referencing the best and beautifully worst of 80s fashion: Bianca’s “Like a Virgin” wedding gown, a delicious gold lame jumpsuit, and the tight, black dresses of Robert Palmer girls.

It’s all helped along by Rick Martin’s subtle and effective lighting.

Frankly, for those who lived through the decade, it’s a little creepy. None of the elements by themselves are exaggerated, yet all together they scream hilarity. Half the audience was asking, “Did we really look like that?” Ahem, yes.

“Shrew” also boasts the funniest Greenshow of the season: “The Shrewly-Wed Game,” in which a familiar Shakespearean couple tries to win a set of luggage. Yes, it’s a play on that 1960s iconic game show, but lest you think they got it wrong, remember the “New Newlywed Game” became a hit in 1984.

Dana Oland: 377-6442

Click to read full article at Idaho Statesman

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