The spotlight shines again: Idaho Shakespeare Festival, audiences about to return to the amphitheater


It has been almost two years since spectators filled the amphitheater of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Indeed, the pandemic has darkened almost all theaters on the planet. But ISF’s cast, crew and production crew are more than a little eager to return to the limelight when they kick off their highly anticipated 2021 season on Thursday, July 8.

“Considering the state of the world and where we’ve been, what we’ve all been through and our own little corners of the world, I predict it will be a lovely, great time,” said Jeffrey Hawkins, one of the stars of Sleuth, the first ISF production of the season.

“So many friends have expressed how much they missed to go out, to hear, to hear wonderful language, to see their favorite actors,” said David Anthony Smith, her co-star. “Of course we sorely missed playing. It’s a void in our lives.

Hawkins and Smith visited Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about their common anxieties and some of their favorite memories in the ISF Amphitheater.

“Boise has always had a big part of my heart. When I leave here, I take a lot of Boise with me.

Jeffrey hawkins

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: This is the morning edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Hello. I am George Prentice. The sun is setting and the lights come on at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival in a highly anticipated July 8 return. And the first show is a firecracker: it will be. Detective. David Anthony Smith and Jeffrey Hawkins are here. David Anthony Smith – 20 years in Idaho Shakespeare, among others. We were delighted with his Iago in Othello, in the title role of Henry V, with many of those “O’s”, not the least of which was Romeo. Jeffrey Hawkins – from New York to Tahoe and everywhere in between. Jeffrey Hawkins says it’s his umpteenth year with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. David. Jeff, hello.

DAVID ANTHONY SMITH: Thanks for having us, George.

PRENTICE: Upstairs, I have to ask you about the anxiety, the anticipation of standing in front of what will certainly be a sold-out amphitheater… and that will probably transcend the art form. Or do you just want to go out and do that?

JEFFREY HAWKINS: David and I talked about it. We’ve been suspended since, like the rest of the world, since March 2020. We’ve been thinking about what it might be like to come back. It’s pretty emotional to think about. I hope it’s this warm and welcoming and I know the audience at Boise has always been amazing with their warmth. And given the state of the world and where we’ve been and what we’ve all been through and our own little corners of the world, I predict it’s going to be a very, very good time.

SMITH: It’s just been an incredible void for the community, I think. And so many friends expressed how much they missed going out, hearing, hearing wonderful language, seeing their favorite actors. Of course, we sorely missed playing. It’s a void in our lives. I’ve felt that, you know, a little bit of stagnation, a little bit of depression these 15 months. So being able to revisit this production and its incredible cast of five actors and perform it in front of the Boise audience is what I was really looking forward to. I love the audience here so much. We feel so much love from them. We are therefore delighted to reopen here. George.

PRENTICE: Jeffrey, I feel emotions … mostly good ones.

HAWKINS: I think it was yesterday, David, when I said on rehearsal or the day before maybe “Boise always had a big piece of my heart. When I leave here, I take a lot of Boise with me. In fact, my first show here was in 1998, opening the new amphitheater in this Midsummer production, and that in itself was magical. I love myself, the 208. And it’s a real joy to come back after all these circumstances and after all these months to do a show here. Again, during this pandemic we have lost a few members of the company. It’s moving, but it’s a very… it’s a happy homecoming, but it’s balanced by the perspective of the world as it has been.

PRENTICE: David, let’s talk about Sleuth, without revealing anything. The cliché is “rhythm”, but indeed, there are very specific beats and tempos and even a cadence, when you find this rhythm with Jeffrey, I don’t pretend to know your job, but you really can’t freeze that, because every night is naturally different, and you just find a different way of dancing, so to speak.

Roger Mastroianni / Roger Mastroianni

Jeffrey Hawks (left) and DA Smith (right) co-starred in Sleuth

SMITH: Oh sure. If you’re really in the moment and really listening to someone and trying to … I mean, that’s the big challenge to act, isn’t it? There is an expression: “The secret to good acting is honesty on stage. Once you can pretend, you have it. So there is a trick to this. But I mean, our goal as actors is to say these lines and be in these situations like it’s never been told or happened to us before. And it’s an incredible challenge because it’s a trick. Obviously I know what Jeffrey is going to say and he knows what I’m going to say, but of course we have to make it look like it’s done for the first time. And riffing with Jeffrey and the other cast members is just to always keep you on your toes. And I was just saying to Jeffrey, when we got to the rehearsal, “At this particular point in the play here, the last two rehearsals, I didn’t listen to you and I apologize and I’m going to do my best to. try to listen to you. So it happens, especially when you re-examine the room and relearn that after 15 months… but yes, they’re incredibly different rhythms in the room, George. I mean, it’s a play about gambling and revenge to some extent. But, yes, we must always be on our guard. And I couldn’t ask for better cast members to do this with

HAWKINS: DA is right. I mean, it’s the easiest and hardest thing in the world just to talk and listen. DA laughed that he apologized to me earlier today. But the truth is, I didn’t listen when he spoke to me. Now it’s the easiest, hardest thing in the world to sound like a real human saying real things and really listening. Then you mix in a great language. You mix in a complicated language. You mix up words we don’t hear often, terms we don’t say often. And it overlaps. You know, I agree, DA, Lynn, Nick, Alled… they’re just great, great people. There are great artists working on the costumes… and certainly the production of Charlie Fee. The rhythm of this piece is fantastic. And it’s a big challenge to try to meet this dance every night.

PRENTICE: I can’t wait to see the set because indeed, he’s a character in itself.

SMITH: That’s right. Gage Williams, whom I know you know, George … has been designing here for about 25 years. He’s just wonderful. And we actually have three levels of scenery, which is very unusual for a production here. So we actually have a level below where I go up just below the stage level, which really gives it a wonderful extra dimension. And it’s just a decorator’s dream.

PRENTICE: I’ve lost count of how many crazy things I’ve seen on stage… unexpected things. Guess my favorite was when a peacock landed on stage in the middle of The Crucible.

HAWKINS: I can’t even remember.

PRENTICE: Oh damn. Yes. Oh… and he was a peacock of all things. I have to assume that each of you have a rolodex of memories and experiences of all the productions you have done here.

SMITH: Oh, just a blast. The outside element, of course… maybe having to wait for a plane. We had terrible weather conditions. I remember making An Ideal Husband; and the character of Sarah Bruner… when I went out she said, “We can talk about anything you want except… and I said,“ The weather! And then there was a skunk on stage one night… it ended up in the front row. And I integrated it into the dialogue. And then the helicopters … and Jeffrey, you were doing a production when the fire helicopters were pulling water out of the river.

HAWKINS: I was coming back to this show after being in the hospital with heat exhaustion. So, I might not have remembered everything that happened on that show. And there is a topic related to the weather that I really loved on stage. It was around the time when Bart Sherr directed Titus Andronicus and I was playing his son. And there were other brothers and sisters there. And it’s just when Titus, without one of his hands, brings us all to our knees, making a wish on his sword, I believe it was… or maybe his bloody stump that we’re going to get revenge. And while he’s doing that, the rain is falling on our faces. And as soon as we make a vow of revenge, a lightning strikes just above his head. And I thought, “Oh, man, I wish there was a camera in my eyes right now,” because it was one hell of a scene.

SMITH: Force majeure,

PRENTICE: The first performance is Thursday July 8e. The opening night is Saturday July 10. Gentlemen, the worst kept secret in this town is how much I am a fan of you two in particular, and of society in general. And they’re David Anthony Smith and Jeffrey Hawkins, and they’re about to take us all back to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival for Sleuth. It’s going to be a hell of a night. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

HAWKINS: Thank you very much, George.

Find journalist George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

Copyright 2021 Boise State Public Radio

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