When the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival was created in the mid-1980’s by the Sacramento City College Theater Department, Director Kim McCann says the goals were straightforward.
“To produce the best quality show that we could within our resources, utilizing community actors and student actors, just like we do at the college, and to give them a grounding in the classics, in Shakespeare.”
For location, the festival chose an amphitheater, backed by a duck pond, in William Land Park – tucked in between the Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town. But what about Sacramento’s famous summer heat? How much fun can it be performing in that?
“(Laughter) Well, the joy is that setting. It’s a beautiful park. And the trees that back the stage, and the fact that usually, even when it’s 107 during the day, it cools down nicely in the evening. And, I don’t know, there’s something about the fact that Shakespeare was written to be done outdoors. . .”
McCann has long since grown accustomed to the occasional surprises that go along with working outdoors.
“The actors that have had bugs down their corsets, (or) swallowed the moths, the bats flying over and the audience goes “Uh, it’s a bat!!” The ducks coming across the stage… I try whenever possible to incorporate the ducks, because they’re going to show up, no matter what.”
And then there are the surprises that have nothing to do with nature.
“At least one if not more performances, every year, the Sacramento City Police Department’s helicopter goes over, and shines the light down on us to see what we’re doing (laughter), y’know (laughter)”
All kidding aside, McCann says what makes her particularly proud of the festival is it’s reputation as a training ground for emerging local actors who turn professional. She rattled off a long list of examples.
“Karyn Casl, who’s now up at Foothill. Teresa Heggi, who’s now in New York…
McCann mentioned 15 professional actors, seven stage managers, and a casting director who worked at the festival early in their careers, plus 11 people who’ve gone on to earn graduate degrees in theater, four of whom are now teaching at universities.
This year’s festival features director Luther Hanson’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which opens this weekend, and McCann’s production of “As You Like It,” incorporating music by Mozart. The festival continues through July 31st. Jeff Hudson, KXJZ News.
Friday’s performance will include highlights from the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival’s 20-year history.