by Lorie Lewis Ham
Another season of the Woodward Shakespeare Festival at Woodward Park in Fresno begins next month. KRL took a moment to chat with their new Executive Producer Casey Ballard about the 2018 season and just a bit about her background in theatre.
KRL: Can you tell us just a little about your theatre background?
Casey: My parents will tell you I have been a performer since birth. I began acting at a very early age, with the first official play occurring when I was ten. I hold a B.A. in Theater Arts, begun at CSU Long Beach and completed at CSU Fresno. While studying abroad in London in 2007, I wrote and performed a one-woman show called Tea With Anne. Upon moving home, I then performed that same show at our local fringe, the Rogue Festival. After graduation, I moved up to Portland, Oregon, where I had a wonderfully busy side career as a costume designer for a number of companies in that area. Upon moving back to the Central Valley, I decided to dive back into the acting side of things and was fortunate enough to be cast in a number of successful productions. I also decided to challenge myself with directing my own Shakespeare show at Selma Arts Center in the fall, which I am very excited about.
KRL: Have you worked with Woodward Shakespeare Festival before?
Casey: I have worked with WSF before, primarily in an actor capacity. I was in the 2008 season, as well as the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
KRL: When did you take on the role of Executive Producer for the WSF? How did that come about?
Casey: After the close of last season, it was made apparent that the Executive Producer would be stepping down from his role in order to pursue personal projects and passions. He extended an offer to me to become part of a new group that would be stepping in. Being the enthusiastic, Type-A personality that I am, I felt like I would be a good fit for this role.
KRL: What are you most excited about working with WSF in this new role?
Casey: I am most excited about this new role because it provides me with a far more direct, hands-on opportunity to foster and develop the talent that is in the Central Valley. We have so many wonderful actors, designers, and technicians in our area, and each individual has so much to bring to the creative table. It is my biggest wish that the Festival begins to reach out to more and varied communities in order to continue to offer interesting, relevant, and exciting versions of Shakespeare to our audiences.
KRL: Why did you pick these shows? How do you go about choosing what you will do?
Casey: These shows were actually chosen prior to me stepping into this role. As there had already been word-of-mouth buzz about these plays, I saw no reason to alter the choices. It also doesn’t hurt that Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s most well-loved comedies. I also am extremely excited that we are putting up Othello, which is rarely done because of its challenging and somewhat upsetting content. It is going to be very interesting to see how our modern audiences react to it. Going forward, the Festival would like to open up how play selection is done. We would like for Directors to submit projects they are passionate about staging.
KRL: How long do you rehearse for each show?
Casey: Rehearsals for each show typically run four to five weeks.
KRL: Are there any special challenges to producing Shakespeare?
Casey: I’d say the biggest challenge to producing Shakespeare is having to change the preconceived notions people have of what “Shakespeare” is—and this goes for both artists and patrons.
KRL: Is there anything else new with WSF this year?
Casey: Actually, yes! WSF has gone through a pretty extensive change in that we have practically an entire new Board and Production Team. Keep your eye on our Facebook and Instagram for further announcements regarding this.
KRL: What are the dates and times of each show?
Casey: All shows perform at the WSF Stage in Woodward Park Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. Othello runs June 14- July 7, and Much Ado About Nothing runs August 2- 25. You can learn more on their website.
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
Casey: This is going to be a really exciting season, and I hope our community comes out to support us. Donations are gratefully accepted and our suggested amount is $10, but we remain, as ever, free to audiences. And I promise—it is not as hot for audiences as people think.
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section. Also, watch for our new mystery podcast coming soon which will feature the voices of local actors.