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Author: Eliza DuBose

Shakespeare Festival celebrates post-Covid return

June 5 of this year marked the full return of one of Colorado’s oldest and most beloved artistic traditions: the Colorado Shakespeare Festival opened its first non-socially distanced performances since 2019.

The season kicked off with The Two Gentlemen of Verona, performed in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theater. The Book of Will, a contemporary play by Lauren Gunderson, will join Two Gentlemen of Verona on the outdoor stage starting July 2. Meanwhile, another of Shakespeare’s iconic romantic comedies, All’s Well That Ends Well, finds its home in the CU Boulder University Theater. The political tragedy, Coriolanus joins All Well That Ends Well there starting July 16.

The Original Practice series will highlight The Alchemist by Ben Jonson with a single performance in August.

Since 1958, audiences and actors alike have converged on the University of Colorado Boulder campus to enjoy and celebrate the Bard’s works. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) is the second oldest celebration of Shakespeare’s work in the nation and one of the few companies to have completed the Bard’s collection twice.

All of this was brought to a screeching halt when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the world into a tense standstill. The summer of 2021 saw a limited return of the festival with social distancing restrictions which included limiting audiences.

For Tim Orr, the producing artistic director of CSF, this season is a celebration of the community that suddenly found itself frustrated during the pandemic. “Live theater is human beings on stage telling stories to other human beings in the audience. And there’s nothing to replace that really,” said Orr in a phone interview.

That celebration is much delayed in some ways, with All’s Well That Ends Well and Coriolanus originally intended for production in 2020 but only now making it to the stage. But the delay also inspired new directions, such as the selection of The Book of Will, which imagines the journey Shakespeare’s friends might have undertaken in order to ensure his work lived on when he could not.

“When we read the play, we just thought this is the greatest celebration that I can think of, community, and the perseverance and persistence of Shakespeare and live theater,” Orr said about finding the play during lockdown.

Ilana DeAngelo, the actress playing Diana in All’s Well That Ends Well, shares Orr’s appreciation for live theater, especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. “I’ve always been grateful to be on stage. But especially after not doing it for a year and a half, there’s just this new sense of gratitude and gratefulness and appreciativeness of what we get to do,” DeAngelo said.