Shakespeare Festival plays emotional range

Female directors, perspective at the forefront

A lighthearted comedy, a disturbing tale of race, gender and violence and a Jane Austen classic will be the stories revolving through this summer’s Island Shakespeare Festival from July 13 through Sept. 2.

In its ninth season offering “pay-what-you-will” performances on an outdoor stage, this year’s productions are “Twelfth Night” and “Othello,” two plays written by William Shakespeare, and “Sense and Sensibility,” a novel written by Jane Austen.

Twenty professional actors hired from across the country are halfway through rehearsals learning their lines, characters and blocking for two plays — or more.

“Ask any actor right now and they’ll say it’s exhausting,” said Artistic Director Olena Hodges who selects the plays and hires directors.

She’s also an actor with experience juggling roles and plays from one day to the next.

“You’re in a beautiful place and spending the summer doing what you love but you’re also working nine hours a day out in the sun,” she said.

Rehearsing two different plays a day means “changing your brain” a lot not only for dialogue but also for directors’ differing styles.

“They are three different directors with three different styles,” Hodges said.

“It’s a lot of processing. It’s mental athletics.”

Two local actors who grew up on Whidbey, Andy Walker and Cameron Gray, are part of the cast.

The festival always includes two Shakespeare plays and one by another playwright. Plays are performed in an outdoor amphitheater in Langley.

Hodges chose a Jane Austen story, she said, because the ISF production of “Jane Eyre” in 2016 was a big hit.

Charlie McGrath directs “Sense and Sensibility” that was adapted from the novel by Kate Hamill.

It follows the lives of three sisters and their mother as they are forced out of their home by a wicked half-brother.

Gossip, family bonds, romance and wealth are explored with lighthearted fare among the stuffy British bourgeoisie.

“Twelfth Night,” directed by Kristin Clippard, is a farce Hodges viewed as needed by many.

Considered Shakespeare’s comedic masterpiece, it’s an unusual love triangle set in motion by a shipwreck.

“It’s a very rich comedy on so many levels,” Hodges said. “It seemed like a good year we could use catharsis and pleasure at the theater.”

The play “Othello,” directed by Terri McMahon, however, is bound to spark polar opposite emotions.

A tragedy of love, rumor, envy and manipulation, the local production switches up some gender roles and racial relationships.

“It’s about race and violence and how we treat each other,” Hodges said.

She cautioned that “Othello” is not suitable for children under the age of 10.

Although all three directors are women, it wasn’t intentional, Hodges said. She said she also could not have predicted the timelessness of her selected plays.

“I could not have anticipated how appropriate it would be to put the female perspective at the forefront,” Hodges said. “We have committed pretty strongly in taking (that) risk.”

From humble beginnings in 2010, Whidbey’s Shakespeare repertory theater has grown in reputation and regional pull. It began when Susannah Rose Woods, then a Whidbey Island newbie, wanted to put on a Shakespeare in the Park kind of play. Peggy Juve helped develop the concept into a pay-what-you-will festival as both women wanted Shakespeare to be affordable to all.

Many community members contribute as volunteers, making costumes and helping with design, lighting, production and other needs.

The nonprofit organization depends primarily on donations from businesses and individuals for its $250,000 budget.

Madison McKenzie Scott (left) and Renea S. Brown star in “Sense and Sensibility” that kicks off this year’s Island Shakespeare Festival on July 13. Photo provided

Madison McKenzie Scott (left) and Renea S. Brown star in “Sense and Sensibility” that kicks off this year’s Island Shakespeare Festival on July 13. Photo provided

More in Life

Come fly a kite: Annual Kite Festival is Sept. 21-22 at Camp Casey

Whidbey Island has a reputation among kite-flyers. The wind presents a real… Continue reading

Skilled sewing to be on display at Senior Bees quilt show

Oak Harbor Senior Center artists create quilts for the community

Guide offers tips for ‘Hiking Close to Home

Washington state is known for its flannel-wearing, IPA-drinking, nature-loving residents, and Whidbey… Continue reading

Ryan’s House for Youth celebrating 10 years of service

Youth homelessness might be a hidden problem in Island County, but there’s… Continue reading

From the minds of kindergartners: New-to-school kids share observations about what to expect

Amalie Provoncha, 5 How do you feel about starting kindergarten? I don’t… Continue reading

Service dogs compete in ‘Puppy Olympics’

With tails wagging and ears perked, eager canine “athletes” dashed and demonstrated… Continue reading

Bug guy gives bird talk

An insect ecologist will be discussing an order of birds that was… Continue reading

Ryan and the giant pumpkin: Coupeville resident grows half-ton gourd

Lying in a Central Whidbey garden, among large green leaves, was what… Continue reading

Art & About | Whidbey Island’s September art events

Rocks and gemstones will be on display for the RAVEN ROCKS GALLERY’s… Continue reading

A first-day high five for the new school year

Photos by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times… Continue reading

A weekend to remember

The Oak Harbor Music Festival was a hit — and played many… Continue reading

Marvelous marbling: New Coupeville business bringing added dimension to Front Street

A drop of blue spreads rapidly across the still water, growing and… Continue reading