by Lorie Lewis Ham
Every summer since KRL began we have written about and supported the Woodward Shakespeare Festival. This fall we had the chance to chat with Greg Taber, the executive director of WSF, about their off season events. We also got a preview of next summer’s season!
KRL: What sort of things are the Woodward Shakespeare Festival involved in the rest of the year?
Greg: The WSFOffseason/The Bard Inside will be continuing our partnership with the Fresno County Libraries, but will be trying out some new things this year. While we have one of our usual staged readings on February 25 at the Sunnyside Library (All’s Well that Ends Well staged by Julia Reimer), we will also be having at least one Open-mic Shakespeare night, two nights (November 26 and January 28) devoted to a discussion of film versions of our 10th anniversary productions (Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, the Tempest) with Paul Kaser, an evening with Ann Vermel and Paul Pierce trying to make sense of the history plays directed by Joel Abels, and a student music composition contest tied into Julie Ann Keller’s production of the Tempest.
KRL: How do you decide what type of things you are going to do and which shows will be represented during the off season?
Greg: For the past eight years, we’ve been happily partnered with the Fresno County Libraries and presented staged readings of various plays, some of them that we were intending to produce, others that we felt tended to get short shrift. This season, we thought that change was in order. As our Education and Outreach leads, Ann Vermel and Julia Reimer put their heads together and came up with WSFOff-season/The Bard Inside.
KRL: Are there any type of events you’ve done in the past but aren’t this year?
Greg: Other than the one staged reading of All’s Well that Ends Well, we will not be doing any staged readings.
KRL: Who all is involved in the off season events?
Greg: Paul Kaser is going to be taking us through Season 10 at the Movies. Julia Reimer is staging All’s Well that Ends Well. Ann Vermel and Paul Pierce will be Sending up the History Plays under the direction of Joel Abels, and Thomas Loewenheim and Steve Alcala will be judging our Tempest Music Competition.
KRL: I notice that they are all at local libraries–how did that come about? And how is it decided which libraries will have events?
Greg: The partnership with the Fresno County Libraries was in place before I became involved with WSF as anything more than just an actor. Currently, we work with Linda Aragon, the Programming Librarian for the Fresno County Libraries, to schedule venues that take WSF out into the community.
KRL: Are all the events free?
Greg: All of WSF’s performance events are given free of charge.
KRL: What is the primary purpose of the off season events?
Greg: The primary purpose of the WSFOff-season is to take WSF out into the community, instead of asking the community to come to us out at Woodward Park. Much like the Rogue Festival, even after nearly ten years and over 250 performances for over 70, 000 patrons, there are still Fresno residents who don’t know that we exist.
KRL: Tell us about your High School Composition Competition?
Greg: The Tempest Music Competition is an effort to bring new artists into the WSF fold and, in so doing, expose them to the WSF audience. It is open to anyone who is or has recently attended school in Fresno County and will culminate in a finalist concert on April 22 at the Woodward Park Library. Composers may have the opportunity to have their selections performed either before or as part of our production of The Tempest. The contest is supported by several of our generous patrons, as well as the Cultural Arts Rotary Club and the Bonner Family Foundation.
KRL: What do you have planned for the 2014 Festival season?
Greg: The 10 Anniversary Season is going to be something truly special. A new production of Macbeth (directed by Greg Taber) will kick off the season, followed by Aaron Spjute’s take on the Taming of the Shrew. Finally, we will close our tenth season with Shakespeare’s last play, The Tempest. We are very specifically looking too push our own theatrical boundaries, so expect something different.
KRL: Have you already had auditions for the next season? If not, do you know when they will be?
Greg: Auditions for all three shows will be held on Saturday, January 25 by appointment. Callbacks will be held the following Saturday. Details will be available at www.woodwardshakespeare.org on December 15.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Greg: Most non-profits disappear in five years or so. Most theaters disappear in three. WSF is preparing for our 10th season. This is a tremendous testament to the tenacity and love of the artists that make it happen every year, and to the patrons who come out to see us show after show. We cannot thank them enough; all we can do, is continually strive to do better and better work that honors them and their support.
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