Nearly two years since its last performance, the Island Shakespeare Festival is coming back to life in an abridged format for its 11th season.
The theater company opted to focus on one show this summer, “As You Like It,” which opened Aug. 6.
Artistic Director Olena Hodges said the play is a touchstone for the company, since it was performed at the first-ever Island Shakespeare Festival in 2010, and then again in 2016.
“‘As You Like It’ is kind of our flagship play, and our company is sort of built off of the themes of the play, such as finding empowerment in a rural setting,” Hodges said.
Traditionally, actors have come from all over the country to be part of the festival. But for this year, the cast is composed primarily of people from Whidbey Island, with the rest from the mainland and one from farther down the coast.
The fun runs until Sept. 12. Shows are at 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, with a family-friend matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The outdoor performance is held in the field behind the South Whidbey Elementary School South Campus, 5476 Maxwelton Road.
As usual, the show relies on pay-what-you-will donations. The 80-minute performance will be presented without an intermission. Masks for audience members are required at all times, except if eating or drinking.
Seating capacity will be limited to 75 percent. Hodges explained that this means somewhere between 120 and 150 people will be able to be seated, depending upon the size of each group attending.
“We’ll perform in a drizzle but if it rains to the point where the stage becomes a safety hazard for actors, then we’ll move the performance into the tent,” Hodges said.
The festival aims to subvert expectations about who Shakespeare is for. “As You Like It” explores themes that can be viewed with a contemporary lens, such as the flight of people from the city to more rural areas such as South Whidbey.
“I think we find a lot of heart in that play and it keeps us grounded,” Hodges said.
For the time being, the full, three-play season that was planned for 2020 has been postponed to 2022, with the plan to retain as many of the original cast members as possible.