Davis Shakespeare Festival to return this summer

The Davis Shakespeare Ensemble will return this summer with two shows as part of the fifth annual Davis Shakespeare Festival, which will run from June 26 to Aug. 3 at the Veterans Memorial Theatre.

The Davis Shakespeare Festival will consist of two shows: the Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing and the musical comedy She Loves Me.

She Loves Me was chosen because it pairs so well with Much Ado,” said Rob Salas, one of the artistic directors of the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble. “It’s about co-workers with mysterious pen pals who meet and fall in love. It was based on a story that was most recently adapted as You Got Mail. It’s very cute and charming.”

This particular play is the first time the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble has staged a musical.

“We chose this musical because it’s not like a typical musical,” Salas said. “It’s not over the top nor is it epic. Larger musicals tend to have a big spectacle, but this one is more intimate. It’s about the characters. I’d say it’s more like a play with music than a musical.”
She Loves Me is directed by Gia Battista, who is the other artistic director of the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble.

“Directing has been a fantastic experience,” Battista said. “We have the same cast for both plays so you have to find actors who can handle Shakespeare and sing. It’s a great, multi-talented cast. You can tell how a process is going by the energy in the rehearsal room and it has been very positive. We spend rehearsals laughing while being productive, so we’re moving along quite nicely.”
Salas is directing Much Ado About Nothing, which will have a setting inspired by the Napa Valley, post World War II.

“The characters are coming back from war and celebrating, so we feature swing music and a romantic setting, which falls into that vibe, ” Salas said.

The cast of the plays said they are highly enthusiastic about the experience.
“Rob and Gia are close in directing style and the rehearsals are basically intermingled,” said Pablo Lopez, a first-year Chicana/o studies and dramatic art major. “It’s pretty balanced and a great process, so it hasn’t been much of a strain on me to do two different shows. It’s cool to jump between singing a ballad to a really funny scene with Don John and Borachio.”

Susanna Risser, who plays Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, wanted to work with the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble so much that she sent in a video audition from her home in Salt Lake City.

“Doing two shows is a cool experience that you don’t always get to have,” Risser said. “The plays and my characters are so different from each other that the whole thing is really fun. There’s so much to experience and explore that it’s more fun than overwhelming.”
Salas and Battista envision the Davis Shakespeare Festival as a fixture for the city in the future, an event that would bring business to the area during the summer.

“By doing two shows, we can offer a weekend package,” Salas said. “We’ve been partnering with businesses and getting the city’s attention, and they’ve been helping us. The festival gets people to stay in Davis and support local commerce. In the years ahead, we want to do three shows so that if someone stayed in Davis over a weekend, they could catch a full series.”
The Davis Shakespeare Festival will run from Thursdays through Sundays from June 26 to Aug. 3. For more information and to buy tickets, visit www.shakespearedavis.org.

JOHN KESLER can be contacted at arts@theaggie.org.