June 19, 2012

Albania Comes to Boulder in the Guise of Illyria. ~ Clay Evans

From left, Leslie O’Carroll, Kate Berry, Rachel Fowler, Logan Ernstthal and Ian Anderson reheard “Twelfth Night,” a co-production of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and the Arvada Center.

On May 28, a dozen crew members packed up the country of Illyria—better known today as Albania—loaded it onto trucks, and hauled it some 20 miles north, from Arvada to Boulder.

Not the actual nation, it’s true, however, the caravan did transport the elaborate sets created to portray the world of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at the Arvada Center—and take them to Boulder, where the comedy opened June 9 in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.

The co-production with Arvada is something new for the festival, but both parties hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

“The Arvada Center embraces a culture of collaboration and partnership with other organizations like the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and we have increased the quality and variety of our offerings like never before,” says Clark Johnson, CEO of the Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.

CSF Producing Artistic Director Philip Sneed, who will direct the show, hopes that the joint venture will create synergy to engage audiences in both places.

And, Sneed says, the co-production actually should pay benefits for the other productions in the 2012 season—Shakespeare’s “Richard III,” Ken Ludwig’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” “Noises Off “—tagged as the best comedy ever by some critics—and famed Shakespearean Tina Packer’s cycle of plays exploring the evolution of the Bard’s rich cast of female characters, “Women of Will.”

Why? Because rehearsals for “Twelfth Night” will be in the bag by the time the play opens the season, Sneed says, leaving about 30 percent more rehearsal time for the four subsequent productions.

Images from a rehearsal at the Arvada Center. Top left: Logan Ernstthal; Bottom Left: Kate Berry, Jake Walker; Center: Stephen Weitz (left), Josh Robinson; Top Right: Kate Berry (left), Rachel Fowler; Bottom Right: Director Philip Sneed. Photos by Noah Larsen.

“We really think this will result in quality that the audience will experience in the other plays,” he says.

CSF approached the Arvada Center at the end of 2010 with the intention of exploring the creation of new business models that could help both organizations. That led not only to the “Twelfth Night” co-production, but also to CSF’s taking its 2011 production of “Romeo and Juliet” to Arvada for two season-end performances. This summer, CSF’s “Treasure Island” will go on the road to Arvada in August.

The two organizations crafted a revenue-sharing agreement that reflected the reality that the Arvada Center has a larger budget than its collaborator to the north.

“They’ve been a great partner,” Sneed says. “We came up with a formula that allows each of us to save about 35 percent from what we normally would spend (on production).”

The two companies are sharing all costs. Arvada will keep revenue from 36 performances in its 220-seat black-box theater, while CSF will keep the proceeds from eight performances at the Rippon, which seats more than 1,000—meaning each will have around 8,000 seats available.

The collaboration also poses fascinating logistical puzzles for Sneed as a director and for the production crew. Scenic designer Brian Mallgrave and the Arvada Center set shop will have to create sets that can work on both a flat, indoor stage at Arvada and a much larger, raked—sloped—outdoor stage in Boulder.

As director, Sneed will have to plan for different staging and blocking at each venue, and he’ll have just over a week to rehearse the cast and crew in a new setting.

“It will be a shorter rehearsal time, and more intensive,” he says. But after 36 performances, he notes, the actors won’t be working on lines.

The collaboration also will have practical benefits, including reduced production costs and the opportunity to share resources.

“Other theaters have been doing co-productions for 20 or 30 years now, so we know this model can be very successful in keeping costs down while still delivering a quality product in two different markets,” Sneed says.

Packer’s five-play cycle, which will be performed in its entirety outside of Massachusetts for the first time at CSF, offers some of the same benefits of collaboration, Sneed says. Packer and her onstage partner, Nigel Gore, have performed the play many times, obviating the need for concentrated rehearsal time, while costumes and props have already been produced.

For more information about the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, see http://www.coloradoshakes.org. For more on the Arvada Center, see http://arvadacenter.org.


Clay Evans grew up in Boulder. He spent 25 years working in journalism.





Editor: Cassandra Smith


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