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Idaho Shakespeare Festival holds its position as integral part of Boise summer culture

A staple destination for enormously tasty ice cream treats, high-end and dynamic acting, and literary enrichment, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival is an integral part of summer Boise culture. Though summer is coming to a close, there are still performances scheduled until the end of September, allowing stragglers and regulars to visit the
festival’s stage.

Current shows at the festival include “Les Miserables” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, with “Steel Magnolias” coming in September.

The Idaho Shakespeare Festival offers a uniquely serene atmosphere for watching and interacting with live theater. Though the festival’s location is not far off from the urban infrastructure of downtown Boise, the stage is nestled in nature to the point of silencing the bustling normalcy that Boise residents are generally used to.

Fish biologist and regular Idaho Shakespeare Festival attendant, Gwynne Chandler, enjoys watching Shakespeare classics at the festival and returns to see performances each summer.

“The scenery and sounds are peaceful and there isn’t any background sounds from the city,” she said.

Chandler and her family also routinely arrive early for performances so that they can detach from their electronic devices and enjoy their surroundings.

She commended the quality of the productions at the festival, emphasizing the fact that the enthusiasm of the actors and volunteers translates to the audience members.

“[They] always seem very happy to be there, and thus those of us in the audience are very happy to be
there,” she said.

Chandler added that one of her favorite things about the Idaho Shakespeare Festival is that people “go as they are.”

“There are folks there that are dressed as if they are going to a Broadway show, eating fancy meals with $100 bottles of wine,” Chandler said. “And next to them are those of us that, shall we say, are quite casual in our dress.”

She continued to describe the experience as inclusive and friendly, in which no judgment is passed amongst attendees, no matter their level of

“I have always felt that Boise is quite cultured without needing to appear that way,” she said.

In essence, the festival is a place where anyone can come to get a taste of classic literature, theater antics and intricacies, and an overall sense of community without feeling excluded or out of place.

Boise State junior English linguistics major, Sandy Walker, explained that her favorite part of the festival is “how respected it is, but not stuffy.”

Walker also included her appreciation for the ease of access for students with the festival’s student discounts, noting that though the performances are of a Broadway-rivaling quality, students are still able to find a way to take part in the summer staple.

As stated on the Idaho Shakespeare Festival website, the organization’s mission statement is “to produce great theater, entertain and educate.” In terms of education, the festival runs tours to several schools in the area, including multiple junior and senior high schools. This not only promotes appreciation for literature and Shakespeare, but also helps cement the festival’s important role in Boise culture.

Walker remembers the festival’s tour to her school during her freshman year at West Junior High.

“If any troupe can get the attention of 100 plus teenagers, you know they’ve got something special,” she said.

With “No Fear Shakespeare” pamphlets and other tools available to modernize and simplify classic literature for the average reader, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival is trying to cultivate and renew an appreciation for classic literature on its own, despite the seemingly difficult vocabulary and phrasing.

“It’s incredibly important to instill a sense of appreciation and value for classics and works of high literature, even when there are a million other easy reads out there,” Walker said.

Walker holds the festival in high regard, and attends performances often.  She encouraged newcomers to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival scene to try an ice cream cookie sandwich with a friend to supplement the dynamic experience of theater, “because they are giant and delicious.”

About Justin Kirkham (124 Articles)
Justin Kirkham is currently the Editor-in-Chief at the Arbiter and has been pursuing journalism since high school. Having interned as a blogger for YouTuber Strawburry17 and having invested far too many hours in news and cultural writing, he aims to continue working within the realms of gaming/technology, environmental and social justice journalism. He is strangely attuned to pop culture and can name both of Taylor Swift's cats.
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