Idaho is a low-population, western state, and as such, when the word Idaho enters a conversation a few chief images enter your mind. Sprawling potato fields, fattened cattle grazing on the plain, a weatherbeaten cowboy spitting tobacco, and oh, so many tractors. These pictures may even have a rustic, bronze tint to them. And part of that picture in your head is spot on, Idaho does have many of those characteristics. But you may be surprised to find out that even though Idaho has beautifully preserved traditions of the old west, it also is bursting with modern technology, fabulous entertainment, and excellent fine arts. One example of this boone is the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
After studying theater, Doug Copsey, returned to his home in Boise, Idaho, and participated in a play put on by Boise State University. He was impressed by the talent he found there, but dismayed by the fact that if these students wanted to pursue a career in theater they would have to leave Idaho. Determined to establish a professional theater group for Boise artists, Copsey founded the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. His non-profit company performed its first play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the summer of 1977 and in the nearly forty years since has expanded to include several programs that influence the entire region.
The core of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival consists of local and guest artists who perform a total of five classical, Shakespeare, and contemporary plays each summer in Boise, Idaho. Their outdoor theater, complete with lighting, sound, and stage equipment, has seating ranging from grass, table, and stadium seats. Viewers are encouraged to bring dinner, a sweater, and a friend to spend a relaxing summer night watching a live professional performance.
The festival has also have branched out into educational programs that tour regional and Idaho schools. Shakespearience and Idaho Theater for Youth are two programs dedicated to education youth about the theater arts. These two programs reach approximately 50,000 students annually (www.idahoshakespeare.org). Their presentations, often Shakespeare plays with an engaging motif, add energy to the study of classical literature. They do not focus exclusively on Idaho’s largest metropolitan areas either, so rural communities in Idaho have exposure to fine arts where they otherwise would not. This addition to Idaho’s culture brings color to Idaho’s rustic background, making it an excellent location for cowboys and artists alike. These two programs offer inspiration to students. In fact, some of the members of the current day company were Idaho students who watched Shakespearience performances in high school. As a result of this, they have established training programs, including an apprenticeship school and the annual Camp Shakespeare.
If you are looking for a home in Idaho with access to fine arts, look no further than Boise. With professional groups like the Boise Philharmonic, Ballet Idaho, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and many more artists, Boise is Idaho’s center for classical, contemporary, and fine arts entertainment. Idaho’s picture book may have a lot of rust-tinted pictures, but look a bit closer and you’ll find high definition color and culture in Idaho’s welcoming arms.