Photo credit: Jennifer Koskinen

Author: Clay Bonnyman Evans

Indoor Magic

For decades, Colorado Shakespeare Festival audiences have reveled in the unique, magical experience of seeing the Bard’s plays performed in the outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre at the University of Colorado Boulder.

But as the much-beloved Rippon takes 2024 and 2025 off for a complete renovation, CSF is excited to acquaint audiences to the Roe Green Theatre — fresh off its own multi-million-dollar refurbishment — and create a very different kind of magic in an intimate space.

“The indoor theater is so luxurious after this renovation,” says long-time Producing Artistic Director Tim Orr. “And it gives us almost infinite opportunities to create theatrical magic.”

Where summer sunset skies, moonlight and stars provide much of the Rippon’s enchantment, the indoor space can “instantly transport audiences into another world,” he says.

The festival made the bold decision to produce two audience favorites, the comic The Merry Wives of Windsor and the dark tragedy Macbeth, which CSF audiences haven’t seen in a decade or more, and never indoors.

One of just five Shakespeare works to feature a ghost, Macbeth tells the murderous tale of a haunted, brooding Scottish king, alternating between claustrophobic psychological torment and the ringing clash of swords.

“I love being indoors, where we can completely control the environment and create an immersive theatrical experience,” says CSF Managing Director Wendy Franz, who will helm the tragedy.

Through lighting, projections, special effects and sleights of hand, Franz plans to surprise, delight, perhaps even startle, audiences in ways not possible outdoors.

“Inside, it’s easier to direct the eye of patrons,” Franz says. “It’s hard to sneak actors on- or offstage outside!”

Orr calls Merry Wives “Shakespeare’s sitcom,” and says the indoor space will recall the “live studio audience” effect from such classic TV shows as Three’s Company, The Jeffersons and the more recent That ‘70s Show.

“It’s a play about middle-class people, highly original and hysterically funny,” Orr says.

Production meetings have been “hilarious,” he says, as the team mulls everything from actors breaking the “fourth wall” to applause signs to stingers — those brief musical jolts during sitcom scene transitions — to conjure the intimate feel of a sitcom.

The festival will offer three “double-feature” Sundays in which a single audience will see either Macbeth or Merry Wives, take a dinner break, then return to see the other.

And CSF will stage the latest in its series of “original practices” plays, Arden of Faversham, a proto-true-crime thriller about a woman and her lover’s scheme to dispose of her husband, believed by some scholars to be partially written by Shakespeare.

With just one-sixth the rehearsal time of full productions and actors given only their own parts to rehearse, Orr says “actors are sweating adrenaline. We’ve outsourced our memories to our phones, but that’s how the Elizabethans did it.

Season and single tickets for CSF’s 2024 lineup are on sale now at