All 37 plays: Sam Sandoe completes the canon with ‘Coriolanus’
2020 was supposed to be a big year for Sam Sandoe. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s canceled 2020 season—featuring the plays “Pericles” and “Coriolanus”—would have helped Sam, a veteran actor on the Mary Rippon and elsewhere, perform at least once in every play Shakespeare ever wrote.
Finally, with “Coriolanus” set to open in July, he’ll have ticked every box on the list only two years off-course from the original victory. Sam has officially performed in all 37 of the Bard’s plays, plus several more based on Shakespeare or whose authorship is contested, such as “Edward III.” He’s been collecting Shakespeare titles since 1970—mostly here but also with companies like Upstart Crow and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Some plays, like “Twelfth Night,” he’s been cast in as many as five times in various roles.
It’s an impressive undertaking, but for those who know the Sandoe family’s connections to our company’s history, it also seems an inevitable one.
Sam’s father, James Sandoe, was a CU professor who spent his summers directing shows with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In 1944, James was asked to direct a summer play on campus. Because the Navy was occupying the University Theatre due to the Second World War, James decided to stage “Romeo and Juliet” in the relatively new Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. The practice became an annual tradition, and in 1958 Jack Crouch, a CU English professor and James’ colleague, formally founded the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.
“I grew up around the festival, but I didn’t get involved right away because it was sort of the family business, right? But in 1970, my sister [Anne Sandoe]—who began performing with CSF in 1961—encouraged me,” said Sam.
That summer he was cast in “Richard III” and “All’s Well That Ends Well.” “It was such an eye-opening experience. Even though I had hung around the theatre a little bit, I had never been directly involved. I learned how much work is expected, and how much focus there has to be, while at the same time, it’s about a lot of people coming together to have a lot of fun. That was my first real taste of it.”
He enjoyed the experience so much that he returned to the Rippon in 1973. And, of course, in many seasons since. Looking back, one of his favorite seasons was in 2001, when he clowned around as a Cupid-like mischief-maker (diaper and all!) in a 1950s carnival-themed “Two Gents” and as a member of the Chorus acting as an intermediary with the audience in Jeanie O’Hare’s “Queen Margaret.” The vastly different roles made for a really exciting summer, though each season is special in its own way.
“I was never really driven to be an actor, but I have always found it enjoyable. And it really is a wonderful way to spend the summer.”
And, ideally, to spend many summers to come. After all, there’s more work to do: Sam is halfway through completing the canon a second time. Will he go for it again?
“I used to have a lottery dream,” he said. “If I suddenly had more money than I knew what to do with, I would just search around the country for wherever somebody was doing one of the plays that I need to complete the canon. That’s the only way I could do it a second time.”
Catch Sam Sandoe in “Coriolanus,” beginning July 16. Tickets start at $19.