To: The honorable Mayor of Des Moines, Frank Cownie

CC: Des Moines City Council


To whom it may concern;


On behalf of the Des Moines Music Commission, I present this note as a letter of commendation to the 2009 Iowa Shakespearience Festival, held July 24th through August 2nd of 2009 at the Simon Estes Ampitheater, and produced by the Iowa Shakespeare Experience, a 501c3 non-profit group based in Des Moines. 


As a participant in the festival, I was allowed a unique viewpoint into this inaugural event, representing the first time that the Estes Ampitheatre has been used by a theatre company: 


  • The Iowa Shakespeare Experience provided a free festival that was performed in true repertory, with two shows alternating performance nights, including an original production entitled “Much A-Doo-Wop About Something”, written and adapted by Lorenzo Sandoval, with a score written and arranged by Tina Haase Findlay, both highly-regarded fixtures of the Des Moines artistic community. Additionally, the show featured live music performed by bella soul, a Des Moines-based music group
  • In rough estimate, between 4,000 and 4,500 people attended six total performances (both shows were performed in their entirety three times)
  • In rough estimate, the festival returned, through either direct funds or in-kind donations of volunteered resources, approximately $300,000.00 in total value to Des Moines’ creative economy. 
  • A total of 50 actors, musicians, crew persons, and support volunteers were engaged in the staging and production of the festival, providing much needed income as the arts community was severely impacted by the recent economic recession.


Although these numbers are preliminary estimates, they are an indicator of the tremendous reception the festival received. Furthermore, this serves as ample testimony to the depth of culture available to residents of Des Moines and Central Iowa, and is an encouraging sign that Des Moines will respond strongly to new, high-quality artistic endeavors when offered the chance.


In addition to being enjoyed by local audiences, this festival tied itself into the national circuit of Shakespeare festivals, and served as a draw to bring travelers from across the globe into the heart of Downtown Des Moines. As the festival grows over the coming years, it is anticipated to continue this trend on a much larger scale, attracting much-needed tourism and revenue.


In closing, this Commission commends the Iowa Shakespeare Experience for a successful festival, and looks forward to the promise of a bright future. 



Brandon Findlay

Des Moines Music Commission member