The Idaho Shakespeare Festival is a cultural and architectural center for southern Idaho. Scenically located in South-East Boise, the amphitheatre was designed and built in 1976 by a group of theatre architects and their construction company known for their work in the Northwest. The group of architects included Brain Robinson, Eugene Angel and Joseph Michal LeMosh. The group designed the theatre around its location on the Boise River and at the base of the Boise Foothills to not only be a beautiful location, but a theatre that took nature in to it design. If one watches a play in the theatre, they will notice that it is very much immersed in the nature around it. There is a small park around the theatre with walking paths, courtyard which has the café and the amphitheatre surround it, giving it a more natural feel. The park and the courtyard also share a small pond and many picnic areas for guests to dine while in intermission, before the play or just as picnic.
The theatre is inspired by both the Elizabethan and the Greek/Roman amphitheater architecture types. The Greek/Roman influence is easy to see while in the theatre. The open air design is the biggest influence on the theater, as well as the amphitheater style seating. The other major influence on the theatre is the lack of structures around the theater. If you are ever wandering the theatre and park surrounding it, you may notice that the only structures are the stage, the café building and the tower directly behind the seating for the theatre. This tower is connected to scaffolding that hold the sound panels and lights for the stage, but it (the tower) also is the control the lights and other electrical equipment for the plays. This gives the amphitheatre a more simple feeling to, and helps to focus attention on the actors, and not on elaborate decorations that may be found in a theatre that is less inspired by the Greek/Roman design. The other aspect of Greek/Roman design to it is the full embrace of nature all around the stage and the entire theatre. The theater is surrounded on all sides by trees and shrubs, along with the grass seating area directly in front of the stage. This natural element to the festival was to fully use the area and to give the audience a unique experience. The natural element to the theater can be fully seen in the William Shakespeare Park, a small public park that is operated alongside the Shakespeare festival by the City of Boise. The park has been managed by the city of Boise since 1999, and has been a great addition to the theatre. It is center around picnic areas and Shakespearean ideology. Ever picnic area is named for an idea or setting out of Shakespeare’s plays, and are made of natural cut stone. The park is also filled with walking paths for guests to use during the fifteen minute intermissions and the public.
The theatre shoes its English influence in a number of other ways. Upon entering the theatre, you may notice that there is a large open courtyard. This was the original basis for the Elizabethan design for theaters originally. In the early Elizabethan age, the actors were hired by Lords and the wealthy aristocracy to perform for them in their courtyard. This courtyard design can be seen in the theatre, but not as the stage area. The stage and theater lay out takes on characteristics of the latter Elizabethan era, when actors were performing in areas with populations big enough for a permanent theatre. The theatres back then were designed as a circular structure to eliminate bad seats. In an imitation of the Globe theatre, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheatre has a circular design. This trait is accented by the stage jutting in to the audience, further eliminating bad seats and putting the actors in to the audience. This gives the audience a closer connection to the actors, and also gives the audience the feeling that they are in the play. Another aspect of the Globe theatre that the Shakespeare Festival adheres by is the number of sides to the seating area. The Globe theatre is supposed to have had twenty four sides instead of four to eliminate poor seating (the circular seating area). If you are wandering the amphitheatre or the Idaho Shakespeare festival, you will probably notice a number of poles with plaques around the seating area. There are twenty four of these poles to represent the number of sides that the globe theatre had.
The Shakespeare Festival is not only an inspiration of Greek/Roman and Elizabethan theatre styles, but also more conventional architectural styles that more people are accustomed to. The theater shows a heavy use of the Craft style (originated in Idaho) and the modern style of architecture. The Craft style is seen more in the café building than in the theater. The café building looks like an imitation of an Elizabethan long house, but on closer examination, you can tell that it also shows Craft style of architecture. The stone exterior shows a dramatic difference from what would have been common in medieval England, and this is characteristic of Craft architecture. The natural wood work on café also shows the Craft influence on the building. The modern influence can be seen more in the actual amphitheatre. This is best shown in the sound panels. These panels are triangular shaped, which the use of geometric shapes is a characteristic of Modern architecture, the scaffolding also uses the same triangular designs throughout it. The use of sharp geometric shapes can also be seen in the seating area and layout of the theatre and courtyard around the theatre.
The Idaho Shakespeare Festival has brought culture and entertainment to southern Idaho for over thirty years now, and will continue to bring entertainment to Boise area for years to come. Thank you Mark Hofflund for your interview, and thanks to the staff and players at the Shakespeare Festival; more information can be found in the book in the book With our good will; 30 years of Shakespeare in Idaho.