Summer Festival Overview below 
(Also explore the Info Tabs on rightside Menu
- and be sure to enjoy this 10 minute Festival Slide Show!)



Presented soon at special places such as:



- - -plus from season to season,

also presented at various Downtown venues,
in the Rollins Mansion Rose Garden and at other Historic Estates,
and on suburban traveling stages all across the Metro!

Featuring the work of William Shakespeare...
...and the other Playwrights and Art Forms which his work has
so heavily influenced:
from Theatre to Ballet to Opera and from Symphony to Poetry;
collectively known as the "classics"


NOTE: For this seasons' show schedule and location details,

click on the Festival Schedule page in the righthand sidebar.

Meanwhile, enjoy the overview of our Festival's great

community outcomes, below!


Overview of Shakesperience Fest, history, goals and Boards: 
Why Festival Shakespeare?

Also see ISE Mission and Vision Statements, below.

QUICK PEEK and SUMMARY: Welcome to the dedicated Mini-Website for Iowa's great annual (and mostly FREE!) Shakesperience Festival of the Classical Performing Arts.  Produced by the Iowa Shakespeare Experience agency (ISE, a 501(c)3 non profit), Shakesperience Fest is ISE's most popular program - a program which serves the community primarily for free, in turn supported by ISE's year round theatre works for which ISE charges for tickets. The festival is our Signature Project - and the program is developing and growing rapidly.

Currently the Shakesperience Festival program comprises a 4 month festival season that hosts a Spring-to-Summer line up of specially related cultural events, youth camps, entertainment and educational activities, from April to July, conducted in various venues across Greater Des Moines. 

And in 2015 and 2016, we are excited to announce a new parnerhsip with Historic Terrace Hill, which will come on board as a major new festival partner.  Read more about that exciting development on the Home Page of our Website.


ISE's Festival Season culminates each year in a primarily free 1-2 week midsummer Festival al Fresco, showcasing the best of the classic performing and dramatic arts on a variety of performance stages in "under-the-stars" style.  The outdoor festival provides professionally-produced free shows featuring Regional and Metro actors and other accomplished perfrormers of the classical arts.

There are also extraordinary ticketed events that support the festival financially, as do ISE's other year-round show programs which also feature the classics. 

Robust and growing festival partnerships with agencies like Terrace Hill and the City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation Division - - as well as with a wide variety additional area non-profits- - - help those groups - -especially area historic estate non-profits and other area arts groups - -extend their missions to new audiences and simultaneously extend ISE's own mission to new audiences ...while adding great depth and richness to the festival's flavor and content. 

Thus, the festival acts as a synergistic engine to grow the classical arts scene across the Metro at many levels - while becoming known as a festival which provides a wide range of works and which is greatly appreciated for the unique and uniquely beautiful stages and venues in which we hold shows.  Additionally, the festival elevates the Metro to par with the artistic scene found in many cities across the country -- where FREE annual summer theatre is often a treasured resource, and where theatre in historic estates is recognized as an exciting way to support several causes with one initiative (the historic venue and the theatre company) -- all the while enticing new audiences.  These types of partnerships are especially effective for theatre organizations because when theatre is produced in a venue not traditionally designed for theatre, shows there are all the more challenging - but all the more memorable. 

Community service and measurable outcomes:  Classical art typically engages a community in conversations that involve some of the greatest issues and themes of humankind.  That, in and of itself, is an important raision d'etre.  But a Shakespeare Festival such as the one produced by Iowa Shakespeare Experience not only opens to the entire community some of the world's most well recognized great theatrical classical themes, but also uniquely produces many other important community outcomes besides cultural growth and breadth. 

A more detailed discussion of our community outcomes is provided below.  However, as an overview of our broad outcomes, first and foremost: we provide exceptionally broad access to the arts for the entire community.  Did you know?: ISE's festival provides the region's primary annual source of free professional theare entertainment on a featured area stage! But additionally, simultaneously, the festival also counts among its outcomes the following:  1.) measurably increased outcomes in area educational goals, 2. measurable and meaningful increases in job creation for the region's creative economy and 3.) measurably enhanced area tourism (drawing attendance from over 150 zip codes, typically from locations that are 90-150 miles around Des Moines but also from beyond.)  Other important outcomes include a synergistic boost to the Metro's entire arts scene, because in today's culture, research* clearly shows that the relaxed atmosphere of a festival environment serves as America's single most popular way to introduce and engage today's new audiences with the arts. [*National Endowment of the Arts 2011.]

With all of these as our outcomes, Shakesperience Fest has been a mutliple award winner of a variety of top regional and state arts awards. For example, the Festival holds a rather extraordinary record of having won five times (in only its first five years) the State of Iowa's highest (and stringently competitive) awards specifically for measurable enhancement of both tourism and also of job growth in the creative economy.  We're also proud to have garnered the State's highest awards for Artistic Excellence several times as well. 

With Shakesperience Fest, these already strong community service outcomes and outcomes with artistic excellence are further buttressed by the unique role that this particular type of Festival plays in the community in terms of both content and scale. 

In terms of content, the works showcased at Shakesperience Fest explore humanity's great questions.  Why do we exist?  What is love?  What is madness? Shall we avenge hatred and hurts?  How should we govern -- or be governed?  And so on and so on and so on.  

In terms of scale, Shakesperience Fest's nightly audiences are perhaps the area's singlemost largest audiences for locally produced theatre.  (Indeed, the area's largest indoor stage for regularly produced local productions is the Des Moines Playhouse, and simply due to space restrictions, even when fully sold out its House can hold only about half the attendees that Shakesperience Fest draws on any given night.)  Most other local houses for theatre are half to a three-fourths again smaller yet. 

Additionally, a free Shakespeare Festival uniquely serves the entire community as few other art forms do.  For example, almost uniquely among a community's artistic offerings, a free Shakespeare Festival draws attendees from across all  the generations as few other types of content does. Young professionals are drawn to the fest's picnic-friendly wine-bar environment and exciting shows.  But families are drawn too - - parents want to expose their children to the world's most famous playwright.  But where most activities that draw young professionals or families might not particularly appeal to boomer, boomers who relish the good life well lived are enormously dawn tothese timeless shows.  And even our most fragile group, our Seniors, relish the particular works showcased by this particular Festival - -with free Shaksperience Fest, they can revisit beloved stories despite what for Seniors in Iowa is all too often a severely restricted fixed income.  So whereas music concerts often divide the community along generational lines, and by contrast to museums which tend to draw like minded people bound be existing passions, a free Shakespeare festival draws in a much broader community - we don't leave anyone out.

Further, this is a "match" festival - we are not re-inventing the wheel or experimenting here.  Instead, this particular festival elevates Iowa's Capital to be on a par with over 250 sister cities all across America which have similar festivals, often free elsewhere for as long as up to 3 decades ahead of us- such as the 30 year FREE Shakespeare Festivals in Omaha, Kansas City, or Iowa's Quads.   Iowa City also has a robust Shakespeare festival. These are cities which community leaders know Des Moines must keep pace with, in order for Des Moines to continue to draw business and new residents.  

Diversity at Shakesperience Fest:  ISE's particular approach to providing our community's Shakespeare Festival also provides a measurable boost to a variety of goals set by our region's leadership around enhancing and supporting our region's multi-cultural diversity.  Indeed, ISE's festival absolutely excells in this area.  You see, Shakespearean works actually start out with a surprising relationship to issues of Diversity simply from Shakespeare's place in the world as perhaps the world's best known premier artist.  Shakespeare's works are studied in virtually every country from which Iowa draws immigrants, so these works are also uniquely well-recognized by all diverse Iowans.  An immigrant to Iowa might recongize very few other artists who are currently celebrated in America - but likely will recognize Shakespeare.

Too, the synergy between Shakespeare and so many other art forms which often involve his work (Ballet, Opera, Poetry, Paintings, Sculpture and Symphony) mean that this Festival acts as a Gateway to boost engagement with the city's other art forms by a diverse body of area residents. Develop an interest in Shakespearean theatre, and sooner or later Shakespeare will lead you into other avnues where his art and works are showcased.

But beyond these elements common to all Shakespeare Festival, The Iowa Shakespeare Experience enjoys additional relationships to diversity that make us quite unique.  For Shakesperience Fest was founded by - and is led by -one of Iowa's leading minority artists, a nationally-published playwright from Iowa Writers Workshop with national-level Trainer of Trainer credentials in leadership around diversity. 

This means that Shakesperience Fest celebrates Diversity by both example, intent and notable capacity.  Shakesperience Fest has from our very begining, been a genuine leader in implementing policies that promote multiple types of diversity.  This includes a consistent and well thought out casting policy that accentuates color-blind casting, a unique "Shakespeare-in-Spanish" initiative with our education programming, to bold moves that find us from time to time, infusing immigrant languages such as Spanish directly into some of our Mainstage Shakespeare plays, with Spanish integrated into the verse. 

And perhaps most intriguingly of all of the Festivals outcomes and potential outcomes: these capacities around diversity are rare enough among the vast majority of Shakesperean theatre efforts across the country, such that this particular Festival (if appropriately supported by the community) has the capacity to put Iowa on the map quickly in terms of national recognition that is possible for our efforts here. Imagine the bragging rights for Iowa if a Festival in Iowa's Captial became known nationally as one of America's leading classical arts festivals that specifically celebrates diversity

In sum, all of these factors enhance the ability of this particular Festival to really make a difference in the community in multiple ways.


Relating overall Festival outcomes to specific community gaps and goals

HOW AND WHERE AND WHEN:  Shakesperience Fest is comprised of 3 to 4 months of annual Spring and Summer activities and events, from youth programs to lectures.  But annually between June and July, on the festival's European-style Mainstage Festival Grounds in downtown Des Moines along the Riverwalk or on other partner stages throughout the Metro (often at magnificent historic estates like the Iowa Governor's Mansion or even occaisionally on a downtown Rooftop of two!),a "moveable feast" festival unfolds, following national models of similar world-class summer classics festivals prevalent all over the country such as Chicago's Ravinia or New York and Boston's Tanglewood,

it all culminates in what currently are 4-8 nights of professionally-performed outdoor Repertory plays and shows, usually presented over 1 or 2 weekends.  Frequency of shows depends primarily on funding, but often on other seasonal considerations as well.  

WHAT: These shows feature the classical arts of especially theatre, but also the related classical art forms of ballet, poetry, and classical music, including the "heritage arts" from non-European countries -- all showcasing works by those considered some of the worlds' most influential ("classical") authors and composers - -with a special but not exclusive focus on the works of William Shakespeare and art forms influenced by him.  For of all human beings across the world; Shakespeare is the single individual whose work has most influenced our legacies of literature, theatre and the other performing classical arts such as ballet, opera, symphony, poetry, sculpture and painting.

But as most of today's best known Shakespeare Festivals do, this festival also produces works by the other great classic playwrights who are considered "Shakespeare's progeny" - - those classic playwrights who came after William Shakespeare in his wake -for Shakespeare is known as the "Father of Modern Playwriting". 

Additionally, pre-show concerts and one-night-only free community special shows often round out the festival's theatre offerings with other forms of art which in today's fast moving culture, are now also considered classical art forms: from Jazz to Early Music and ancient tribal drumming to classical dance and ballet, classical music in the form of String Quartets or Opera samplers, to poetry and more.  Truly, there's something for everyone at Shakesperience Festival - - and there's always something new for everyone at this great Iowa festival, too!

WHO WE ARE AND OUR HISTORY: Over 250 cities across the country offer some sort of regularly produced Shakespeare initiative to their populations -most in the form of festival-style Shakespeare - typically produced outdoors.  Many of these festivals are by now more than three decades old.

But as late at 2003, Iowa's capital city had yet to foster a sustainable Shakespeare initiative - much less a sustainable FREE initiative-- free being the "Gold Standard" for what most communities want for their summer arts programs.. 

So after 5 years of producing Shakespeare and outdoor theatre for the Metro as a paid-ticket, for profit venture, the artists, staff and community supporters who have created Iowa Shakespeare were asked by community leaders to take their work to the next level.  We were asked to form a FREE festival for all to enjoy -- free outdoor Shakespeare being the "gold standard" that most communities want for their region.  This free tradition among Shakespeare Festivals is found round the world and all across America, initially fostered by the great Central Park Shakespeare Festival found in New York City. 

Acccordingly, these Greater Des Moines community leaders and Artists came together to incorporate ISE as an Iowa incorporated non profit (2008) and by 2012, that non-profit became a full blown 501(c)3 non profit, such that contributions to the ISE are completely tax deductible.

Now, The Iowa Shakespeare Experience is a multiply-recognized, mutilply-award winning organization, garnering 19 premier Metro, Regional and State awards by merely our fifth birthday.  The free components of the organization (the free festival) had to grow very quickly in order to survive, having been born merely two months before the Great Recession of 2008 hit - - and we are pleased to say that the organization not only survived - but has thrived, perhaps partly because as Iowa's people grew poorer during the recession (and continue today to grow poorer in some population segments), fostering broad community- wide access to free art became increasing an imperative for all community leaders.

So we have grown rapidly.  Today, the ISE oranization is more than just it's summer festival.  ISE is now a year-round producing theatre organization in its own right, using year round ticket-income productions to generate earned income- income that helps underwrite the costs of keeping the festival free.  This is a business model utlized by many free Shakespeare Festivals - we have not reinvented the wheel. 

Instead, ISE consistently utlizes best practices in our genre. So drawing funding from some of the region's most notable community funders along with generating earned income from ticket sales, the festival has celebrated its fifth year of free services - -and the Producers their 10th year of producing Shakespeare al fresco. 

And, despite being born moments before the Recession and encounterig a variety of severe weather challenges in its earliest years, this festival and its leadership has shown truest grit.  Indeed, we do not exaggerate when we say the festival has thrived: in only its first year, the festival exceeded attendance projections by 66%!

Special relationship to Diversity: As noted in the overview section above, Shakesperience Festival has a notable emphasis on diversity; part of the mission statement of ISE being to "open classic works to the diversity of American cultures."  To round out the overview of our relationship to diversity which was provided above, here are a few very very brief but addtional outcome details about ISE's commitment to Diversity.  Shakespeare being studied in over 250 countries across the world, including all the countries from which Iowa draws immigrants, this festival serves as a welcoming bridge for American-born and immigrant populations alike- immigrants will recognize these works in a way they may recognize no other artist, while the festival simultaneously aligns Greater Des Moines with the world's greatest singlemost cultural brand. 

Accordingly, and especially with free tickets removing financial barriers to community attendance, the festival serves a notably multi-cultural population, and is diverse in all aspects, founded and led through its formative years by one of Iowa's leading minority professional artists - - one of the nation's scant 100 Patricia Roberts Harris Fellows in mutli-cultural diversity.

But proud as we are of our capacities with reaching multi-cultural audiences, Shakesperience festival provides more.  For we are diverseeven in areas typically not examined for diversity.  For example, simply in terms of overall diversity of an audience's experience with culture.  Check out our extraordinary data: during our first 5 years, roughly 1/3 of our Festival attendees self-identified as brand-new to Shakespeare, another 1/3 self-identified as having some familiarity with Shakespeare, and the remaining 1/3 self identified as having expertise or particular fondness with Shakespeare.  Data like this shows that truly, we are hitting on all cylanders!

ADDITIONAL ISE OUTCOMES: We fill a missing gap in the Arts scene of Greater Des Moines. This terrific festival aims to elevate the annual cultural offerings of the Des Moines Metro to match similar annual offerings in sister cities from Omaha and Kansas City to Iowa's Quads and Iowa City, where similar Shakespeare Festivals have existed for years, in many cases providing free festival-style Shakespeare for nearly 3 decades. 

ADDITIONAL ISE OUTCOMES: We meet area art needs surveys and the goals or gaps identified in local research-based plans. It is important to note that the mission, aims and accomplishments of Shakesperience festival tie in very very closely to all recent area planning surveys, from data returned by the region's largest recent cultural study (Bravo Greater Des Moines 2012 Intercept Survey) to the community's 2013 Capital Crossroads and Tommorrow Plan initiaitives. Here are a few of the details. 

  • In the Bravo Intercept survey, Metro residents were found to prefer theatre over any other art form, and were found to support using government funds on festivals and youth programs above all other uses of governmental funding in the arts. 
  • In the Capital Crossroads survey, prescriptive findings for the feild of arts and culture were few, but among those in the Sperling data were a sharp indicator that it is specifically theatre where the Metro next needs to invest in terms of growing the arts to attract business. This makes sense as an outcome in terms of drawing business - because if one asks the majority of a community what cultural activity is most of interest to them, typically the majority will identify "dinner and a show" as the most popular activity. In sum, while specialized pockets of a community will identify that they enjoy wandering a museum for entertainment, typically a much larger portion of the population will identify broader, more entertainment-focused interests (such as "dinner and a show") - and in sum, of all art forms besides film, live theatre is typically most closely in line with what the majority of Americans are likely to consider simply fun.
  • In sum, theatre acts as today's biggest magnet into the arts- and the festival environment serves as today's most user friendly gateway into the theatre world.  A festival like ISE's is "ground zero" for growing a community's engagement in the arts.
  • These findings about festivals as a Gateway to the arts are especially true when it comes to producing festivals likely to attract persons of color.  And this is important, because cultural demographics are clear- America is increasingly in the grip of Tetonic Plate Forces described in a work by the same name between "The Gray and the Brown" -- and forward thinking communities need to plan accordingly now- - if appropriate early infrastructure is not laid into place to engage persons of color with the classical arts, the classical arts will likely be severely lost to us all - and with it, the ability of the classics to engage us in art that is truly "artistic" (and not primarily crafts-based.) For the classical art scene was the home and birthplace of virtually all the artistic principals and practices that we recognize today. 
  • In other recent major area surveys such as the Tomorrow plan (as well as in groundbreaking works such as The Gray and the Brown), this importance of community investment into projects which serve a broad audience base is underscored. 
  • For example, while clearly the Metro needs to invest in projects which attract young professionals, the Metro also needs to make sure it serves the existing residents, and thus the importance of the Tommorow plan data which shows that the single largest growing demographic for Greater Des Moines not just now - - but for fully 3 decades to come- - will be the 55 and older demographic.  Since Shakespeare and classic theatre is one of the few art forms that successfually serves both these diverse demographic, Shakesperience Festival performs admirable in terms of serving the entire community. 
  • Accordingly, the Metro's recent focus on preventing "brain drain" and attracting young professionals is important, yet insufficient to meet our needs.  Simultaneously, we must serve and support across all of our demographics- and as note in the overview above, few premiere artists besides Shakespeare do such a proven job of attracting across all demographics -especially when produced in a barrier free accessible festival format. This ability to broadly serve the community, to engage broad segments of the entire populatoin with the arts, and to synergistically point the way to the other art forms that Shakespeare influenced (from Opera to paintings to sculpture to poetry) is what makes a Shakepeare Festival unique among most other festival formats.

STILL MORE ISE OUTCOMES: We meet area tourism goals and goals for enhancing the vitality of the Creative Economy.  In recent years, Bravo Greater Des Moines has focused on researching and provided detail concerning the role of the Arts in our regional economy.  A 2013 front page report published by the Register concluded that the arts (collectively known as the "Creative Economy" had total employment equivalent to that of many of Iowa's larger and well known employers, such as John Deere.  ISE is proud to have contributed to job growth in the Creative Economy, twice being recognized by the State for our significantly high creation of part time arts positions, annually, on a reliable basis at each festival.  Moreover, we have also been recognized twice by the State of Iowa for measurable outcomes in tourism enhancement.  Shakespeare Festivals nationally are proven to draw attendees from an average 90 mile radius-- and we documented 148 different zip codes at ISE productions by merely our fifth year.  Again, as an outcomes-producing impactful organization, ISE measures up in stastically signicant, documented ways. 

AND MORE ISE OUTCOMES: We extend Des Moines's leadership with Public Art into new sectors. A community's need for Public Art (art accessible and enjoyable by the masses on a regular, barrier-free basis) has been well validated and documented elsewhere- and Des Moines has become a leader in the provisino of top quality Public Art.  However, as a performing agency which produces substantial top quality programming for free, ISE extends our area's public art offerings into new sectors.  Shakespearean and classic works typically present humanity's most compelling dialogues, questions and imaginings - - and to open these ancient discussions to today's populations, ISE routinely puts music and dance into these classic works- just like Shakespeare himself did- in line with the majority of cutting edge trends in Shakespearean theatre as currently being practiced all over the world.  Additionally, just like Shakepeare did, ISE also frequently sets Shakespearean works into varous different historical settings; again, an approach common among Shakespearean artists- for by placing these works into new contexts, new insights into these dialogues frequently unfold. 

Accordingly, while the terms "traditoinal" or "historical" Shakespeare ill serve the issues involved (see ISE's extensive White Paper on these subjects, accessible through our Site Menu off of our organization's home page)  ISE specializes in producing the best of the Bard- we produce "traditional" Shakespearean style theatre (ie set in Rennaissance times) AND the Bard set into today's times, or into various timeframes that may add important new perspectives to the themes of the plays. Oh - and by the way:there is also an additional type of Shakespeare visible on the national scene: "New American" Shakespeare, where playwrights create substantially new works based on Shakesperean themes.  First visible in key movie blockbusters such as "West Side Story" (essentially,  a retelling of Romeo and Juliet), you'll find live theatre versions of this type of work at the more cuttined edge festivals across the  scene - - such as the presentation of "The Merry Wives of Windsor, Iowa" (about Iowa's Presidential Caucususes) at the 2012 Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Among the more famous of this genre of Shakespeare is the Tony-Award winning "Two Gentlemen of Verona; The Rock Opera" fostered by New York City's Shakespeare in the Park -  and more recently performed by our neighbors in Omaha at the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. So readers will be interested to know that ISE does that type of Shakespeare, too!  We have two full length productions of copyrighted "New American" Shakespeare works to our credit:  ISE's The Regina Monologues (An encounter between two great queens who figured into Shakespeare's world - Queen Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth) and ISE's Romeo and Juliet: Thrice Told Tales (a story of what might have happened had the love birds not committed suicide, but had stayed married like the rest of us.)  Our 2010 show "A Midsummer Night's Dream" also fits generally into this category of work.

AND DID YOU KNOW? We're more than "just" our festival!  We love our amazing festival and the many outcomes noted above which it generates.  But, as briefly mentioned in the overview section above,  ISE has many other programs which operate both within and without our summer festival - under the umbrella of the festival as well as external to it.  So to learn even more about ISE, do explore the other sections of our Website through the other "Big Yellow Buttons' accessible off of our main Home Page ... you'll find information about our year-round theatre shows and our youth and adult education programs. 

And at the Festival, explore our annual printed festival program to see how many of these programs interface with the Festival. For example, since part of our Mission (printed below) is to "open" Shakespeare to the diversity of today's audiences, ISE actively employs both "color blind" casting in our shows (so that ISE stages often look different - notable more diverse- - than other area stages -- we actively reach out to people of color and diverse origin to invite talented individuals to appear on our stage.  And to nurture their talent, during their time with ISE.

Because ISE additionally reaches out to aggressively develop new local and regional Shakespearean talent.  We have frequently been a local actor's first Shakespeare stage- and from the ISE stage, actors have often gone on to continue to hone their art in premier stages across the country, as well as in the film industry. Even a brief sample of places where ISE Artists are alumns inspires excitement: By our fifth year mark, two ISE alumnae were not only in New York but actively working in theatre there, another was actively working in Chicago's theatre scene, another is now on the West coast actively working with the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival (after a tour at the equally famous Utah Shakespeare Festival), another tours Europe regularly in her alter-ego career as a lyrical opera talent, one alum went on to semi finals in American Idol- - and one of our most recent Artists (who appears in the 2014 festival) is off to France to join the prestigious work of the Commedia Dell-Arte tradition there.  On top of these alumns, our local community finds scores more ISE artists on any number of local stages, often winners of a great many local acting awards. 

Accordingly, at our fifth anniversary mark, ISE kicked off specific programming designed to accelerate Iowa's home grown talent-  - establishing several residency programs for Actors from all across Iowa to come to Des Moines to get or exercise their experience on the ISE stage.  Under the tutelage of ISE's "secret weapon" (our multi-dimensional Artist Dicector, Lorenzo Sandoval - a nationally-published playwright from Iowa Writer's Workshop and also one of Iowa's "Teacher of the Year" award winners at the collegiate teaching level), we have provided Artistic Internships and Residencies on 3 levels: to advanced theatre school graduates close to finishing their MFA, to state award-winning high school graduates who will be entering a theatre major, and to current or recent bachelor's level college graduates specializing in theatre. 

TO CONCLUDE:  ISE is a multi-facted agency and a Top Award Winner - -  and here is a break out of our Awards and our Business Model:

For all of the reasons noted above, ISE regularly is recognized by winning elite regional and state wide awards - -  for everything from artistic excellence to job creation to fostering meaningful tourism for the Capital City area.   Many of these awards (indeed, most of them) come from agencies recognized as "Stamp of Approval" agencies- agencies which have won the community's trust as among the top respected evaluators in their fields. So it is relevant and important that ISE Awards include winning 5 of the State of Iowa's highest and most stringently competitive arts awards in merely the festival's first 5 years - -an almost unheard of accomplishment, with these awards being granted by such notable agencies as the Iowa Arts Council and the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, all of whom use neutral professional jurors in making their awards.  Most of these awards place ISE among the Top Ten projects of the entire state, in any given year.

Beyond that, ISE had won also 13 competitive regional arts awards by Year Five, too.  These "Stamp of Approval" awards have come from agencies such as Bravo Greater Des Moines, where we've successively won 9 awards since our founding, and from the Greater Des Moines Community Foundation, which has recognized our contributions to the community a remarkable 5 times in only our first five years. 

And also in only our first 5 years, the advent of our free festival was listed among dsm Magazine's 'Top 40' Arts and Cultural milestones of the Decade -- and separately by dsm, as one of the Decade's 11 most visionary achievements.  Moreover, by year 4 we'd made the Des Moines Register's list of Top 99 Things to Do in an Iowa Summer, and also its list of Top Ten Things To Do in July. And we've been hand-picked by other national Shakespeare organizations - - from National Players (the nation's oldest traveling Shakespeare Troup) to international theatre sensations such as Aquilla, to act as local hosts for their works and/or to provide scholarly introductions to their shows.

In conclusion, in 2013, through the generosity of the Metro's business leadership sector, one of our notable fundraising events involved bringing in the nation's most prominent Shakespearean Actor of his times; Golden Globe winning Stacy Keach.  At an event and in a press story which can be found on our Home Page Site Menu, the Business Record quoted Mr. Keach as follows: "What the Iowa Shakespeare Experience is doing is GREAT!".  Of course, this is a quote we will cherish long in our hearts.

With community support like this, we know that while still a "Toddler" (at merely five years old, still a very young festival now), The Shakesperience Festival will, over time, grow towards the well-known and beloved world-class classical arts festival models set nationally by such beloved classics al fresco festivals as Chicago's Ravina and Grant Park Festivals, New York and Boston's Tanglewood, Washinton's Wolf Trap, the Aspen Music Festival, or any number of bowl festivals on the West Coast. 

We invite you to be part of our growth!  The leaders below are among those who will look back on this work with pride, able to say "when it started, I was there!"  So support us with your attendance, your contributions- and with any "coin of the realm" you may wish to donate in our nightly Bard Basket giving opportunities - but support us - - you don't want to miss out being part of this dynamic organization that truly makes a difference in Iowa! 







Founders:  Robin A. Heinemann, B/C.Ed. Dr. Bruce Hughes, MD, Lorenzo Sandoval MFA

Founding Board Presidents: Dr. Bruce Hughes, Mr. John Taylor

Founding Board Circle 2008-2013:

Ms. Erica Axiotis, Ms. Edwina Brandon, Ms. Joan Burke, Dr.Judy Conlin, Ph.D,  Ms. Beth Dalbey, Ms. Anne Driscoll, M.Ed., (now Trustee), Ms. Cindy De Pond, Mr. Chuck Fuller,  Mr. Al Greffinius, Ms. Bobbie Brenton Mattheis M Ed., Ms, Kathy MacBeth, Ms. Liz Nelson, Mr. John Norwood, Mr. Marty Kenworthy (now Trustee), Dr. Cookie Kuhle, Mr. John Tone, Ms. Stephanie Windsor, Mr. David Watson

Founding Trustees Circle 2008-2013

Mr. Frank Fogarty, Ms. Ellen Hubbell, Mr. Tracy Lewis, Ms. Tracy Levine, Mr. Drew McLellan,
Mr. Suku Radia, Ms. Billie Ray

Fifth Anniversary Board Circle: Joining the Board during our Milestone
Fifth Anniversary Season 2013-2014

Ms. Barbara Adams, Ms. Christine Collinet, Ms. Jill Ferguson, Mr. Jim Ferguson, Mr. Fritz James, Mr. Doug Lewis, Ms. Theresa Lewis, Ms. Nancy Norman, Ms. Connie Ode

Fifth Anniversary Crew, Actors and Artists Recognition Circle

Special thanks to all of those who appeared on or behind the scenes of an ISE show during our first five years, and especially to the following premier central Iowa Actors who notably facilitated ISE's growth in multiple ways, both on stage and beyond, typically in multiple seasons, typically with notable donations of time, treasure, insight and talent, during our first five years:

Recognizing all the Actors of the Irma Hughes Players 2008-2013 and especially

Ms. Jami Bassman, Ms. Karina Barone, Mr. Eric Bench, Ms. Hannah Berg, Mr. Micheal Berg, Mr. Brian Browning, Mr. Frank Cebuhar, Mr. Micheal Cornelison, Ms. Christy Deitsch, Mr. Micheal Davenport, Mr. Tim Eckley, Mr. A Fogg, Mr. Bill Gentche, Mr. Joe Gentzler, Ms. Jolene Gentzler,The Hade Family, Mr. Jake Hines, Ms. Dani Howard, Mr. John Knoblauk, Mr. Charlie Ill, Mr. Brandon Findlay, Ms. Tina Haase Findlay, Ms. Janae Hohbein, J Man, Mr. Rob Lumbard, Ms. Sara Lyons, Ms.  Annie Meacham, Mr. Hollis Monroe, Ms. Preshia Paulding, Ms. Anna Sundstrom, Ms. Nicole Tesche, Ms. Samantha Tucker, Ms. Ava Rogers, Mr. T.T. Tot, Mr. Nick Toussaint, Mr. Matt Wiggins, Ms. Helen "My Helen" Van Dam, Mr. John Zickefoose, Ms. Zoe F. Zoonshiek

Enduring Thanks to Mayor Frank Cownie, Mr. Jim Collier and Mr. Stacy Keach

and to Ms. Kendra Daly, Mr. Stuart Alexander, Ms. Edwina Brandon, Mr. Chuck Fuller, Ms. Nancy Fusco and all the early year Volunteers for Shakesperience Fest, Ms. Jenny Henderson, Mr.  MD Isely, Mr. Mike Mattheis, Mr. Scott MacDonald, Ms. Amelia Hamilton Morris, Ms. Kandi Reindel, Mr. Doug Romig, Mr. Terry Lint, Ms. Karrie Weinhardt. and Dr. Margaret Zacharias 


ISE's Milestone Annivesary Festival Vision:

Imagining the future of ISE's most popular program...


In looking towards the future on the occaision of its 5th and 10th Milestone Annivesaries,

lthe ISE envisions a

growing, unified, Metro-wide "virtual festival” of

free and ticketed

classica theatre and related multi-disciplinary classical arts

-classical arts both of European and non-European heritage and origin-

presented in accessible, engaging “al fresco” style under-the-stars...

on multiple featured premier stages

and in neighborhoods and educational offerings

all across the Metro;

a comprehensive program which celebrates the unique virtues of

the arts al fresco as Public Art,

towards fostering a more personal, more memorable and more lasting experience with culture

for audiences and artists of all ages and backgrounds.


ISE'S Mission Statement:


As a Premier Provider of classic theatre and free al fresco programming in Central Iowa,


we preserve and honor the traditions of classic theatre


and the al fresco performing arts


through the creation of historically appropriate


as well as fresh and bold


interpretations of classic works,


presenting these works to foster memorable experiences


and to engage strong new connections between audiences and the arts,


opening these works towards the diversity of American culture,


while supporting regional economic development


and measurable educational outcomes,


using the memory and abiding works of William Shakespeare


as our Standard, our Centerpiece...


and our constant Inspiration.*

*Based on Mission Statement of Oregon Shakespeare Festival




© 2017 Iowa Shakespeare Experience