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Bard act to follow: Shakespeare festivals sweep the globe

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23 2012 4:46 p.m. MDT

Open-air appeal

Adam Daveline recently earned a master’s degree in acting from the University of San Diego. For the second consecutive year, he is playing roles in the San Diego Old Globe’s summertime Shakespeare offerings.

For Daveline, who has also acted at the West Yellowstone Playhouse and in Walt Disney World’s “Finding Nemo: The Musical,” the typically outdoor stagings of Shakespeare festivals account for a unique place in the world of live performance.

“One of the great things about a lot of Shakespeare festivals is the outdoor space,” Daveline said. “Whatever the natural surrounding is gives (the performance) a particular charm.

“With the Globe, it’s in the middle of Balboa Park, and right (behind) the stage is the (San Diego) Zoo. Right now we have a scene in ‘As You Like It’ where they’re entering the Forest of Arden, and we play wolf sounds to make it a little bit scary and frightening. And almost every night, the wolves at the zoo howl back.”

As much as he savors the singular appeal of open-air performance, though, the actor values nothing above the actual text of Shakespeare’s works.

“Shakespeare, borrowing from classic literature, took some of the greatest stories of all time and put them in some of the most beautiful poetry of all time,” Daveline said. “His stories last because they’re so universal. The themes are so universal, so overarching. These same grand themes have been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years.”

Beyond the festival

Former Deseret News editor Joe Cannon is an earnest bibliophile. But Cannon’s love for the printed word takes on an even sharper intensity when the topic turns to Shakespeare.

“It is impossible to overstate Shakespeare's greatness — the English language would not be the same without him,” said Cannon, whose passion for all things Shakespeare led him to frame the entire text of “King Lear” on the wall of his home office.

In his capacity as an armchair Shakespeare expert, Cannon enthusiastically endorses the festivals that celebrate the Bard’s works. However, he also cautions that live theater should be more means than end.

“There is a vast difference between carefully reading a play and seeing it performed,” Cannon said. “Both are crucial to understanding Shakespeare, but too often people think they know Shakespeare if they have seen his plays.

“I don't want to minimize seeing the plays. They are deeply enjoyable and many of the ‘lessons’ Shakespeare intends for us to learn can be learned by watching. But the riches of Shakespeare cannot be plumbed without very careful and repeated reading.”

Shakespeare festivals by the numbers

397: years since William Shakespeare's death

260: Shakespeare festivals in U.S.

70: International Shakespeare festivals

$27.25 million: Budget of Shakespeare Theatre Association's largest member

$25,000: Budget of Shakespeare Theatre Association's smallest member

$7.4 million: Present-day budget of Utah Shakespeare Festival

$329,000: Budget of Utah Shakespeare Festival in 1982

Sources: Scott Phillips, Shakespeare Fellowship, Shakespeare Theatre Association

J.G. Askar is a graduate of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School and a member of the Utah State Bar. Contact him at jaskar@desnews.com or 801-236-6051.

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