To buy or not to buy?
That won’t be the question if you’re mad about Shakespeare and find yourself in the Bard’s Boutique — South Whidbey’s newest specialty shop.
Books and coloring books, clothes, caps and cups, totes and T-shirts are among the many Bard buys revealed during Saturday’s Grand Opening.
The gift store benefits the Island Shakespeare Festival, which is marking its tenth season offering pay-what-you-will outdoor plays in Langley from July through Labor Day weekend at its large orange and white canvas circus tent, known as Henry the Tent.
“The gift shop is a wonderful opportunity to keep ISF connected to our community year around,” said Peggy Juve, co-founder of the festival. “We plan to offer locally crafted items along with books, games and fun events.”
The boutique is located in the small space formerly occupied by Side Market in the Bayview Cash Store.
“We have something for everyone,” Juve said. “We do carry a fair amount of Shakespeare-related books and such, but we also have beautifully crafted pottery, dolls, one-of-a-kind wearable art, sachet and greeting cards.”
The store will serve as both a physical base for the Island Shakespeare Festival to distribute information and be the place to send visitors looking to buy a souvenir of their Whidbey Shakespearean experience.
Costumes from past productions are also on display.
“A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and “The Winter’s Tale” by William Shakespeare, along with a world premiere adaptation of Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” are this season’s scheduled productions.
The three plays are performed on a rotating basis by a cast of seasoned actors from July 14-Sept.1.
The nonprofit organization relies on grants, business sponsorships and individual memberships to continue its mission of making art available to all. It also relies on a village of volunteers to house and transport out-of-town actors and help with costumes, sets and other chores.
The new store will also contribute to the festival’s bottom line.
“We hope to generate a profit which will be an additional source of support for ISF,” Juve said. “We also hope to sign volunteers up through the shop as well as gain new members.”
Artists contributing to the shop with handmade cards, hats, jewelry and other wares also give a percentage of items sold to Island Shakespeare Festival.
The shop is similar to retail outlets found in art museums, opera houses and theaters.
Oregon’s Shakespeare Festival’s gift shop, Tudor Guild, is tremendously successful, said Scott Kaiser, visiting from Ashland, Ore.
Kaiser is the playwright of “Shakespeare’s Other Women,” a collection of soliloquies he wrote for “queens, wenches, goddesses and everything in between” to finally give the forgotten voices of Shakespeare’s time a stage.
Island Shakespeare Festival is currently staging Kaiser’s play until Feb. 24 at Whidbey Center for the Arts.
Kaiser signed programs and chatted with actors and others during the shop’s festive opening.
“It’s extraordinary the generosity and support that is here on the island for its Shakespeare productions,” Kaiser commented. “Not every community works to support its festival.”
Nearby businesses welcomed their new theater neighbor by joining the evening’s theme. The Taproom offered plates such as To BLT or Not to BLT, Julius Caesar Salad and Othello Wings while The Farmer & the Vine offered “Rosé by Any Other Name” flight or glass.
The store aims to sell quality gifts and not the ticky-tacky wacky stuff a blinking idiot might buy online — a Bard bobblehead anyone?
“We do have a goal of having quality gifts as part of our mission,” Juve said. “We will be avoiding tacky. That is one reason we call it a boutique.”
“The implication is quality not quantity.”
• The Bard’s Boutique is located at 5603 Bayview Road, Suite 3, Langley. For information, see www.islandshakespearefest.org