Sacramento Shakespeare Festival Opens Friday

By Erica Root

Erica Root
Erica Root

Who needs to drive up to Ashland, Oregon when we have our very own Shakespeare Festival here in Sacramento?

I asked this question and many more when I recently met with Lori DeLappe-Grondin, an instructor at Sacramento City College and the director for this summer’s production of “As You Like It”.

Every summer Sacramento City College puts on two Shakespeare productions at the amphitheater in William Land Park. The outdoor stage provides the perfect ambiance as patrons enjoy Shakespeare while the world around them turns from day into night. There is no assigned seating, and you can bring in your own food, beverages, chairs, blankets — basically, whatever you need to maximize your experience.

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Lori DeLappe-Grondin, Director of As You Like It

As someone who has been going to the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival for years, I was very eager to meet with Lori to get the inside scoop on this year’s performances. Here is what she had to say:

What is the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival?

The purpose is to bring quality Shakespeare to Sacramento and the greater metro area. We hire professionals, local actors and students. Shakespeare in the park as we know it began in 1986. They tried bringing it outdoors in the 1960s but it didn’t work out, so they moved it indoors. However, together, whether indoors or out, Shakespeare has been alive and well in Sacramento for fifty years. The purpose is to keep Shakespeare alive in Sacramento and we are the only ones showcasing it in the park over the summer.

What makes this experience different from going up to Ashland or to any other Shakespeare festival?

The park is gorgeous, you get to bring a picnic, camp out and enjoy time under the stars to see some great Shakespeare. It’s affordable and fun. Ashland is significantly more expensive. We are far more community based. There is a relaxed atmosphere: people are sitting on the grass, the benches, and the audience knows the people on stage. There are similar faces year to year with the audience and the actors on stage make it feel like home.

What’s your favorite part of performing for the community?

There is nothing like the feeling of the audience cheering you on and enjoying the experience and getting a good show out of it.

What’s playing this summer and what can the audience expect?

This year we are making revolutionary changes. Gender equality is a hot topic right now in the news and across the nation and we decided to discuss the issue at a producer’s conference earlier this year. In Shakespeare’s plays there is never a balance of male vs female roles, so we decided to explore the idea of having single gendered casts as a way of balancing it out. To make sure we weren’t the only ones in love with the idea, we tested the waters on Facebook and received tremendously positive responses. So we moved forward, decided the two plays were going to tackle for the year but we didn’t assign which gender would do which play until the auditions.

This year we will be having an all-male cast perform Romeo and Juliet and an all-female cast perform As You Like It.

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Is there one line from either of the plays you are performing that perfectly sums up what the audience can expect to see? That captures the essence of the summer?

  • As You Like It: “I like this place and could willingly waste my time here.”
  • Romeo & Juliet: “Come night, come Romeo, and when he shall die, cut him out in the little stars and he will make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night.”

What are your best tips or tricks for first time patrons? 

  • Bring a picnic, because we only sell small snacks.
  • Be able to put layers on if the temp gets to 95 that day. Once the sun goes down it will likely cool off significantly.
  • Something to sit on, a blanket, a chair.
  • Bring bug spray (writer’s note: I cannot emphasize this point enough. I hate bugs and inevitably they seem to know my hatred of them and thus find me no matter what. I spray my body and the area around me. I’m more or less successful when I do this. It’s worth noting that I am the only one in my group that has this issue.)
  • Arrive early to stake out the best seats.

In a few words, why should people take their families and friends to see the shows this summer?

It’s good fun under the stars. You will have a good time. And it is way more fun than reading Shakespeare in a classroom will ever be.

Don’t miss out this summer – get your tickets to the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival now! I hope to see you there under the stars!

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ROMEO & JULIET PERFORMANCE DATES:

Performance dates: July 3 – Aug. 1 (in repertory with As You Like It)

Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays: Performance at 8pm | Box Office opens at 6pm | Gates open at 6:30pm
Sundays: Performance at 6pm | Box Office opens at 4:00pm | Gates open at 4:30pm

AS YOU LIKE IT PERFORMANCE DATES:

Performance Dates: July 10 – Aug. 2 (in repertory with Romeo & Juliet)

Thursdays, Fridays, & Saturdays: Performance at 8pm | Box Office opens at 6pm | Gates open at 6:30pm

Sundays: Performance at 6pm | Box Office opens at 4:00pm | Gates open at 4:30pm

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