The Boise Bard Players provide the Treasure Valley with theater at an affordable price

The Boise Bard Players, known for their unconventional location choices and meaningful performances, are committed to enhancing Boise’s already thriving theater community and providing shows at an affordable price. 

Professional freelance actor and teaching artist Tristan Berg discussed Boise Bard Players’ most recent performance “Measure for Measure”, and how she became involved in the theater company.

“The first production that I saw them in was “Midsummer Night’s Dream” a few years back. I ended up seeing it five more times because it was so accessible,” Berg said. “I found myself in the audience, like ‘I’m watching a sitcom that’s 400 years old, but it’s every bit as accessible as something I’m watching on TV right now.’”

The Boise Bard Players are committed to providing student-friendly prices on tickets. Their tickets typically cost  $20, and are cheaper the promo code “student”.

“Being able to have accessible tickets and putting shows into a bar or a cafe or a church or a park, it gives more opportunities for anybody to see the show,” Berg said. “Regardless of being behind a paywall, or being behind some sort of patronage buffer.”

Berg discussed the importance of ensuring the language of a Shakespearean play doesn’t detract from the audience’s understanding of the play.

“I think Boise Bard Players does a good job of adding in comedic bits or emphasizing specific language to try and make that kind of difficult-to-understand text sometimes easier to understand to the audience,” Berg said. “We come to see a story, to be taken on a journey and as an audience, we don’t want to not understand the story we’re watching.”

Berg highlighted the importance of establishing a welcoming environment for actors in a theater company.

“On a personal level, I appreciate their dedication to hiring gender non-conforming artists,” Berg said. “I was talking with their marketing individual Tiffany and they have had a gender non-conforming actor involved in the show for every single production over the last two years now.”

With past performances taking place at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, parks and bars, Berg discussed the benefits of having performances in more casual settings.

Berg believes the laid-back atmosphere allows audience members to relax while watching a show.

“It helps us to immerse the audience in the story a little bit more, it helps them to feel more at ease,” Berg said. “So much of Shakespeare is breaking the fourth wall and using the audience as another actor and I think that’s a little bit easier if you’re able to provide a more comfortable environment.”

Chris Canfield, Artistic Director for The Boise Bard Players and Boise State adjunct lecturer, discussed the importance of providing the Treasure Valley with experiences of live Shakespeare, compared to simply reading the plays in a classroom setting.

“Reading the play is like reading a recipe for a cake, and we can imagine how great that cake would be in theory …but at the end of the day, it’s still a recipe right?” Canfield said. “We have a very special or a very unique way that we take these older recipes and make this cake for our community, and instead of putting it in a five-star restaurant, we decided to roll up to a bar to deal out this world-renowned cake.”

Canfield discussed the collaborative nature of the rehearsal process. Although Boise Bard Player productions are well-rehearsed and true to the text, the creative risks and various interpretations of characters set this company apart. 

“At the end of the day, what I’m after is are we doing the play justice and are we having fun with it. And are we telling a clear story?” Canfield said. “Beyond that, I’m happy to collaborate and I think that collaborative nature is what really makes us fun to work with.”

While their current production “Measure for Measure” is sold out, Canfield teased an upcoming non-Shakespearean show, “The Servant of Two Masters.”

“I hope to be the community fixture of classical theater,” Canfield said. “Where you go to see your Shakespeare, your Moliere. The different eras of classical theater … without the fear of it being a history lesson or horribly boring or stuffy, but make it of and for this community as well.”

The Boise Bard Players have started a campaign entitled “No More Starving Artists” which strives to find work for local actors and prioritize hiring talent in Boise.

“A lot of the artists that live here or work here or go to school here wind up moving away to bigger cities and other markets because they can’t pay their bills,” Canfield said. “Companies don’t hire people here, so we’re making a very highly concerted effort to not have that happen anymore and to hire exclusively local.”

It is essential to have theater companies like The Boise Bard Players that provide the Boise community with high-quality theater at a reasonable price. Thanks to the hard work of actors like Tris Berg and committed leaders like Chris Canfield, incredible shows are consistently performed in the Treasure Valley. 

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