Colorado Shakespeare Festival starts next act with Philip Sneed's departure for Arvada Center

sneed and karen slack.jpg
Philip Sneed and Karen Slack in the CSF's 2008 Macbeth.
Still, despite the infusion of talent -- a core of actors like Kent, Jamie Ann Romero and Steven Weitz, guest appearances by such Denver Center Theatre Company stars as John Hutton and Leslie O'Carroll -- the festival's offerings have been uneven during Sneed's tenure. Some were stellar. But some visiting directors made unfortunate choices in interpretation, and performances in key roles were occasionally amateurish. Festival productions received mixed reviews, and local awards were few.

Box-office receipts also fell -- in part because of the poor economy. An attempt to stage an annual holiday offering also failed to increase audiences, and between 2007 and 2009, the company had a deficit of almost a million dollars.

As a result, the university's College of Arts and Sciences was given a greater supervisory role. Steven Leigh has been Dean of Arts and Sciences for roughly six months, and worked with Sneed this past summer. "I was impressed with the quality of the festival," Leigh says, "and clearly it's important to the community."

Leigh is still considering how the next directorship should be set up, what the festival's focus should be, and how it might tie in with the academic curriculum. He points out that eminent Shakespearean scholar Harry Berger will teach at CU this summer, and will engage with the festival and the actors. Leigh also hopes the festival will become a draw for students considering summer school. "There are very good resaons we should think about Shakespeare and how the festival fits the academic mission," he explains. "We do have to get past some questions about budget. Those are legitimate issues and we're working on it."

For now, Timothy Orr -- who started work with the festival as an actor in 2007 and joined the staff full-time in 2011 -- will serve as producing artistic director and oversee this summer's schedule: Richard II, Macbeth, The Complete Works of Shakespeare Abridged and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The latter was originally slated to be directed by Sneed; Kent is taking over. Overall, Orr expects the transition to be seamless.

"What I'd like to see us do is concentrate on how can we do Shakespeare really well," says Kent. "Knock it out of the park. Some of it's casting, some of it directing, some of it training. When Shakespeare's done well, it's so amazing.

"I was raised on the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, saw my first Shakespeare play there and my first swordfight," he adds. "My best friends in life I met there. In my blood I'm excited to see where it's going to go next; it's my love and my joy to protect it and keep it moving forward."

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