Festival Amenities and Royal Rules

(...to have fun by!)

2017 Note:  As the Festival transitions from our prior primary location at Simon Estes Amphitheatre to much greater involvement with our new Terrace Hill location and with other awesome locations all around the Metro, the information on this page is being temporarily suspended while we grow.

While we do anticipate implementing again our various VIP seating areas and other amenities, we will be working closely with our Terrace Hill and other partners over the next few seasons to better determine what these plans will look like.

We anticipate that for the next few years, our festival will have minimal VIP options (email RobinHeinemann.Pres @Gmail.com to inquire) and instead, will primarily employ a "first come first served" approach.  But as always, while we grow, we promise to organize our festival grounds with great attention to detail to ensure the best possible sightlines.  

Accordingly, if you have any questions about festival seating, you may find the information below from prior Festivals can provide a general overview about how an ISE Festival usually works.  

And, there is more information available about the current season overall on this website's Main (Home) page.  A bit of additional information may also be found on Terrace Hill or other venue websites. 

However, please check back for more site-specific updates at a later time, once we continue to "grow into" our new site at Terrace Hill and elsewhere. And, if you have any urgent questions, please feel free to reach us at the festival offices at 515 274 8989, or email Robin Heinemann at RobinHeinemann.Pres@Gmail.com.

Remember, however, that ISE is a lean non-profit with minimal staffing to keep costs down, thus in turn keeping the festival free.  As the festival dates grow closer and closer, staff time to respond in a timely way to messages will be extremely limited.  


For Picnic Information Click Here
For FAQ Information Click Here
For VIP Information Click Here
To Purchase VIP Seating Click Here
Visiting From Out of Town? Click Here

The King Doth Keep His Revels  Here Tonight!
PHOTO: Jami Bassman and Matt Wiggins in Taming of the Shrew 2009 
A few Important ROYAL RULES to have fun by:
» Reserved seating is for donors of $150 or more, or for special tickets that can be purchased via Midwestix.com.  
» Down in front: Please keep children from wandering during the show... a theatre set has lots of moving parts and electronics, and it is not a safe place on which to wander.  Pets must be leashed and if not a service animal, are allowed only in the plaza area- and not at all if barking.   
» No smoking/Turn off Cell phones-electronics:  During Shakesperience Fest, the park becomes a true theater -and also a restaurant for picnics! No smoking within the grounds- not only is this a City Regulation, but also smoking can irritate the actors and musicians – AND your neighbors.  Turning off cell phones is a standard courtesy, and keeping all other electronic devices dark and silent allows your neighbors to enjoy our special lighting and music.   
» Sit pretty: Zounds!  Huzzah! The early Bard catches the worm! Folding chairs are fine, and encouraged - as are blankets (bring an underlayer or liner for dampness.).  ISE even has special Chair Sections and Special Blanket Sections (clearly marked) to foster a great experience and terrific sightlines for all!  But if you're a last-minute arrival please be considerate. Don't plop in front of earlier birds without considering how you may be blocking their view, especially in front of birds on blankets!   
» Courtly manners fit for Kings and Queens: The play begins at about 8:15 - we time it to start just around sunset. That's when conversation and roving about (and also obtrusive light -think electronics) should END. FINE to keep candles burning, tho - Will would have!
» CHILDREN: Courtly manners for Prince and Princesses:  Children are VERY welcome at Shakesperience Fest and many, many children love live theatre starting at a very young age.  Any child able to sit quietly and wonder at the magic of theeatre should attend- although parents should note that Shakespeare was sometimes a bawdy and bloodthirsty guy.  (Our shows are generally PG or PG13.) But children can NOT wander or run  or jump about during the show- that is too dangerous for them and too rude to the rest of the audience.  When a child becomes restless or cannot keep from chattering, please be courteous to your neighbors and to the Actors- please immediately go up to the upper plaza or far rear areas for QUIET playing - remember voices carry in the Amphitheatre.   
» Give back: Give we thy hands if we be friends! Applause and laughter feed the actors. Suggested donation of $5 or more per person feeds the entire festival. so it can get even better every year! 
» Avoid the crush: There's really not a bod seat in the House at the Amphitheater.  Still, some may wish to note that usually, our weekday and Sunday shows have a bit more room to spread out.      
» Live and learn: Handy essays and plot summaries are found in our festival programs, which cost merely a "Bill for Will".  ($1).  Super stuff is also here on our website about Shakespeare's world, Shakespearean adaptations, and all that jazz.  



Picnic, wine and vendor info

PICNIC WITH PANACHE:  WE BRAKE FOR CANDLELABRAS! YOU ARE MORE THAN WELCOME TO BRING YOUR OWN PICNICS AND WINE TO THE FESTIVAL MAINSTAGE! Yes, we mean wine too!-  in fact, the City of Des Moines has worked closely with us to make this legally possible. Thank you Des Moines!  (Note: alcohol regulations may be different when attending one of our traveling shows.)

That's because there is a long, terrific world-wide tradition of bringing picnics to Shakespeare Festivals!  Particularly, gourmet picnics!
Many people make sure that the picnics they bring to their Shakespeare night are THE picnic of summer- they bring friends, families and their gourmet best- perhaps a candelabra (votive candles work too!) or a vase of fresh-picked wild flowers or linen napkins - the works!    
Also, many dress up for the evening- perhaps in theme dress matched to the show- - or Rennaissance gear (Men in Tights, why sure!) or other period fun.
We call it "Picnic with Panache" - and we even have laid-back nighly "contests" with seating upgrade rewards - - - and a major area magazine article has been written about this great tradition of ours! (The dsm magazine article has great picnic ideas and recipes... find it in our Side Bar and click in - -and for more about panache picnics, also see our FAQs page) picnic_smaller.jpg  
Our Mainstage grounds are quite convenient to adjacent parking  -so when bringing a picnic basket spread to Shakesperience Fest, the "lug" factor is truly minimized here!        
Bottom line:  We are NOT a "Gotcha Festival" - one of the supposedly "free" events where food and beverage "gets ya" even if there is no ticket price.  In fact, we are one of the rare "double free" festivals- you are completely welcome to "byo" everything (just not "hard" alchohol), making this one of THE most affordable treats of summer!
However, if you don't want to cook, we have a great line-up of premiere, exclusive Vendors who will be offering rare treats. You'll find some of them in the "Bard's Baliwick Court" area at the top of our plaza.  Or, call our exclusive picnic vendor and pre-order a boxed supper to bring down!
Elite Vendors for the Mainstage Grounds of Festival 2013 -at Simon Estes Amphitheater-will be announced soon (Vendors at Traveling Shows will be different, and typically quite much more limited.) 
Chocolaterie Stams Gelato:  returning for now the fifth year in a row as a real must-have treat! Don't miss this icy-cold creamy-scrumptious treat - way better than ice cream!  Stams is found ONLY in Europe and Iowa! Huzzah!   
Jasper Winery Wine Garden:  But of course! Our delightful Wine Garden will again be created by the great folks at Jasper, with a great selection of wine-tasting choices plus bottles - Jasper wines were hand-selected for the Festival from the Wine Club, one of Des Moines's most prestigious wine groups.
AND NEW AS OF 2012: ANNOUNCING OUR FIRST OFFICIAL SHAKESPERIENCE FEST PICNIC VENDORWelcome to The Cheese Shop, official picnic vendor of Shakesperirence Festival!  CJ is our official picnic vendor for 2013 as well.  Just call the Cheese Shop and pre-order a beautiful box supper to bring with you to the festival.  Thank you CJ!
The Cheese Shop is known for its extaordinary selections of international and locally sourced cheese and charcuterie - - with many fine imports from Italy and simply incredible variety!  Simply call ahead to them at 515 528 8181, and your picnic will be ready for pick up .  So why cook?  Just saunter on down to the festival with your custom made box supper and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!



The Rites of Free Will at our Riverside Site

TOP TEN (er...16!) HINTS to create your "Best Night of Summer"

"Summer's lease has all too short a date" (Sonnet 18) and we have "The Shakespeare Ya Gotta See!"  So check out this list of tips and hints to make your time at the Festival the best ever!
IMG_3059_small.jpg1.  ATTEND!  The Number One way to have fun at Shakesperience Fest is....Simply Come!  Attend - and come back and enjoy it again the next night --after all, live theatre is unique each time - - and - -the Mainstage is free!
2. CELEBRATE!  Is it a birthday, anniversary, first date- or other special occaision? Stop the Director and let her know- Time permitting, we'd like to give you a special "Shout Out" from the stage!  (We've even had a wedding break out on the stage during pre-show! See our Wedding Page info under our Home Page Site Map, too!)   
3. SHAKESPEARE TAILGATING! (Or should we say: Tale-Gating!) Picnic with Panache-whether for just you two or a group of friends! You'll have fun no matter how you come to the festival - but to those arriving dressed with a dash of extra humor or elegance, we say: Huzzah!  Floppy summer hats and white bucks, but of course ! And you might just win our all-in-good fun "Picnic with Panache" contest for on-the-spot VIP seating upgrades!  Because at Shakesperience Fest, we brake for Candleabra! While certainly not required, dressing "in the spirit" and the "delightfully wicked" tradition of bringing an elegant picnic continues. Think gourmet recipes, fine china and linens - maybe grab a handfull of wildflowers for a centerpiece bouquet!  A little candlelight is the perfect finishing touch.  Any why not: we set you up just right!  At Shakesperience Fest, you enjoy exceptionally convenient grounds with super-easy access to close parking, so the "lug" factor is minimal!  And our European-style grounds are largely mosquito free - we even provide complimentary shade umbrellas while they last (or feel free to bring your own). See below for more info and ideas about "picnics with panache!" 

 4. REVEL! ALL THE WORLD's A STAGE! - -FEEL FREE TO DRESS THE PART! Upscale picnic attire or "themes" involving the show or the Rennaissance era is certainly not required- but is always happily encouraged at Shakesperience™ Fest.  Floppy hats, seersucker or white bucks, anyone? Or oh heck - bring Men in Tights - and Women in Tight Bodices! Stroll in with style! MORE ABOUT OUR FUN PICNIC TRADITIONS: See FAQs and don't miss the premiere story on our picnics and recipe hints featured in dsm magaizine May-June 2010! Just click on the easy link on our home page, in the top right hand side bar!   
5.  PREPARE! Read our FAQs section (under our Site Menu) to cover all the bases.  But especially: be prepared for Iowa weather - of ALL types!  Until they run out, we have complimentary bug spray and complementary shade umbrellas -but bring your own to ensure availability.  (Volunteers will lower all sun umbrellas as the sun sets just prior to the show) We do our part- we have distinct sections for those bringing blankets or chairs, to ensure you have a good view.  But ensure your own comfort by bringing a dampness-proof ground liner for blankets, and if it looks sprinkle-ish, an umbrella - we continue during light drizzle.  Also a light wrap or even a sweater. (Did we say sweaters in Iowa in July? Yep, because along the river it can get delightfully breezy and cool cool cool when the sun goes down!)    
6.  RELAX!  Pre-show activites start at 7, but even if you arrive later, there is truly not a bad seat in this house.   
7.  RELAX PART TWO: WHAT RAIN? Even if it rains, at our indoor picnic-friendly rain sites, you'll still have an amazing evening. If it rains, bring picnics, blankets and lawn chairs indoors to our stunning (and quite Shakespearean!) indoor site at the Secret Castle Ballroom - or other nifty indoor locations. See FAQs and Weather Page  for more information.  There, our "Blue Weather Box" always has the latest.    
8. READ UP! Get thee to the Funnery!  Whether you are new to Shakespeare or an old hand, there is always something new to learn that deepens your appreciation.  Donate a "Buck for Bill" and pick up one of our incredibly informative Programs at the Festival Check-In table.  Even better yet...before you come, take a peek at our "Understanding Shakespeare" section in our Site Menu - we make it really easy!  Finally, be sure to check out the simply EXCELLENT "White Paper" reading in our "Scholarly Work" section of our Main Site Menu on our Homepage.  Look under the subject of "Adaptations".  We promise: you will find this highly engaging material truly myth-busting ... and genuinely fascinating!   
9. VENTURE OUT! Check out our unique traveling shows - - which will lead you to other great Metro-area stages like (in 2012 and 2013) the hidden jewel that is West Des Moines' historic Jordan House Mansion!  There, a simply stunning Victorian complete with balconies and a luxuriant lawn full of impossibly tall shady oaks welcomes you to a slice of summer in old fashioned, elegant style!  At this particular show, for a small donation at the gate (under $10), you will enjoy a scrumptious ice cream social and about an hour of "Shakespeare Shorts" - a highlights show featuring the best of the Bard.  Don't miss this one-of-a-kind evening which the folks at Jordan House are calling "Shakesepare on our Lawn". 
11. PARTY! Come to a Festival Party and get to know us better!  On site at the Mainstage or offsite at a Festival "Launch" location, our Young Professional Parties and our annual premiere VIP Salon Parties offer food, friendship, networking - - plus great VIP seating and other amenities. As Puck would say: "The King doth keep His Revels here tonight!" Sign up for our newsletter using the buttons to the right in the Sidebar.  And before the Festival opens, be sure to jump on the chance to buy a ticket for one of our several off-site parties, such as our "Sunday Afternoon With Friends" series of Shakespeare scenes provided (along with gourmet treats) in some of our city's finest private homes.   Our special event tickets sell out quickly- email RobinHeinemann.Pres@Gmail.com to leave your name and address for our invitation mailing list.    
12. HANG OUT! Release Thy Inner Bard!  There's lots to take in at the Festival!  Check out our Detailed Schedule Pages for our current line up of special activities such as our pre-show Concerts, pre-show Directors talks or post-show audience talk backs - sometimes we even offer a Sonnet Slam or two!  
13. ART AFFAIR! At Shakesperience Fest, you can relish a taste of multiple artistic disciplines, not just theatre!  Our shows always include a slice of sizzling dance thanks to our collaborations with Ballet Des Moines and other great local dance schools.  Our musical components and pre-show concerts are fast becoming legendary.  And, be sure to peruse and patronize our large Art Market of up and coming local artists, coordinated by the Art Center's Jenny Henderson of The Jenny Store.  Often held in conjunction with our Young Professionals night (on July 21 in 2012), you are sure to find all sorts of treasures - all displayed in a truly beautiful setting.   You might also catch bargains while supporting the Festival at our Market's Silent Auction.  Again - it's ALL FREE!   
14. GRAB MEMORIES! Let everyone know that when the Festival started, you were there!  While they last, pick up one of our 4-color commissioned inaugural Festival posters on archival paper by nationally ranked Des Moines artist John Sayles! You'll help support the Festival while taking home a colorful slice of iconic Festival imagery - - along with a delicious dollop of Metro-centric Capital City (East Village!) flavor. This work specially commemorates the founding of the Festival - and when the run is gone, they're gone!   
15.  BE SOMEBODY!  Do register at the Festival Check in Tables!  What's in it for you?  You'll get a free trial Membership, party invitations and our Newsletter- plus a chance to win a drawing.  What's in it for us? We'll get to throw your demographic data (We live for Zip Codes!) into our grant outcome reports (which really, really helps us!) Your specific personal info is always completely confidential, however. And after the show, provide us with feedback!  Use Festival tear sheets, or drop a message into our suggestion box, or just use our handy on-line EASY Festival Feedback Form (bottom of Site Menu). Either way, your feedback is important, and will help us continually make this all-volunteer event even better!   (Oh, gosh - -did we breeze by 10 and we are at number 15 already?  Oh well, we're Shakespearean - and rather fans of Sir John Falstaff, at that!  Moderation ain't neccessarily a virtue!)
RECEIP00_small.jpg 16. HOT TIP OF THE YEARFESTIVAL SEATING AREAS- Overhead entry greeting signs like this one, plus ushers and ground signs, will help you locate appropriate seating areas for Chairs, for Blanket Groundlings, or for parties that have a "mix" of these two very different types of seating! Blanket folks can't see if they end up behind Chair Dwellers.  So following the signs ensures good viewing for all!  Or, purchase tickets for a vareity of premiere seating sections (including private tents and "Box seat" cafe tables) at Midwestix.com - - and experience the Festival like Royalty!

Picnics at the Festival

“If music be the food of love, play on!” Twelfth Night Act I


For Date Night, Friends or Family ….

Picnics at outdoor Shakespeare shows are a time-honored tradition all around the world! Many feel that a fine picnic under the stars, paired with a fine show, truly creates THE “best night of summer”!  Its an annual tradition everyone looks forward to!  

At Shakesperience Fest, we emulate some of the nation’s most celebrated picnic traditions- the candlelabra-laden traditions found at amazing festivals our founders know well: like Chicago’s Ravinia or New England’s Tanglewood.  Now central Iowa audiences have the same opportunities to celebrate summer here in our own back yards.

Festival gates open at 6:00 pm for picnics.  All we ask is that you CARRY YOUR OWN TRASH OUT, as the Festival is run entirely by volunteers, and we must ask that Festival patrons assist us in keeping our city clean.

For the most fun with picnics at the Festival, we highly encourage our guests to do two things:


  1. Bring a sun umbrella!  We have a limited number of FREE sun umbrellas for people to use, but we strongly encourage you to bring your own. Don’t worry about “blocking” views to the stage.  We have timed our shows to start right about when the sun descends below the skyline, so sun umbrellas can be lowered when the show starts
  2. Create a theme or particularly elegant picnic through dress or menu, and join our“ Picnic with Panache” traditions!  Wear your best floppy hat or white bucks, summer frocks or Rennaisance attire- or oh heck- bring men in tights!  You’ll have fun regardless, but if you catch the eye of our informal judges in our casual “Picnic with Panache” contest, you just might win an immediate on-the-spot upgrade to VIP seating during the show (or come back and enjoy your reward on a second night!)  
  3. Great picnic traditions are easy and affordable! For more on picnics with panache, see the 2010 dsm article (on our homepage link or in our press pages) and check out the info below!
  4. Also check out the traditions of our "Slow Food" friends - these days, picnicing has truly come into its own!  See slowfooduse.org - there are local chapters in both Des Moines and Ames!

How to Picnic with Panache:  

Some call it "Shakespeare Tailgating" - but at the ISE, we prefer to think of this as truly TALE-gating!  But ah yes- a rose by any other name  WOULD smell as sweet:  Treating an elegant picnic is an outstanding, affordable yet ultra-special way to treat yourself or someone special- or to host a memorable evening for friends or family! 

See the related dsm magazine article which showcases the Iowa Shakespeare Experience and our elegant picnic traditions!  You’ll find lots of great ideas there –including lovely photographs- - as well as terrific menu suggestions that are both easy and delicious for summer dining.

But the best way to truly picnic with panache is to simply break out your best for this special night!  That means bringing your best bottle of wine, favorite “slow food” gourmet recipes, and especially the most fun or elegant “fine dining” accoutrements like fine crystal, real china or otherwise special picnic plates, great tablecloths, ground cushions (try an oriental rug for seating with superb flair!). In particular, votive candles and candlelabras and a vase of fresh-picked wildflowers are time honored faves!  

Our convenient free parking minimizes lugging- as does the use of wheeled carriers or coolers or as ever, a handy and elegant vintage picnic basket.  

To make your picnic extra-special, also see our information on paid-ticket VIP seating at the Festival!

Concessions at the Festival:

The ISE is in the early stages of developing a line up of ultra special concessionaires to make your evening at the festival that much more of a delicious “slice of summer”!  

Keep in mind that currently, our concessions are somewhat limited- when they are gone, they’re gone!

But this summer, while they last, make a point to enjoy wines (purchase by the bottle) from terrific wineries and also, DO NOT MISS the fantastic Gelato from Chocolaterie Stam’s!  Whether it’s a long cool Iowa white or a scrumptious scoop of the Heartland’s very best, these outstanding treats are simply perfect for a summer night! 

"A dish fit for the gods". (Julius Ceasar, Act II, Scene I).

- Bardapalooza -

Shakesperience Festival

 Frequently Asked Questions:


1. What should I bring/wear to make the most of this special evening of riverside entertainment?


2. Tell me about seating options at the Festival:


3. The idea of a “picnic with panache” sure sounds like fun. Tell me more!


4. Are concessions available on the grounds?


5. OK, you’ve intrigued me. What’s the scoop on VIP seating*?


6. I love how you are growing this Festival! How do I find out more, volunteer, or become a member?


7. “But for my own part, it was GREEK to me!” (Julius Caesar). I’m new to Shakespeare. Will I “get it?”


8. I love the special fun touches you bring to the Bard. You make is SO easy for people to get in on the fun. But I’m also into Renaissance! Like most Shakespeare Festivals, do you do “classic” or “traditional” Shakespeare - - or works by other classic playwrights, too?


9. How long do shows run? Do you have an intermission? And what about “the necessaries!”


10. What does “Repertory” mean?


11. What arrangements are there for those who are physically challenged?


12. What about Smoking?


13. What about Rain or other weird weather?


14. What about children?


15. How do I find the Amphitheater?


16. Where can I park?


Iowa Shakespeare Experience FAQs


17. Tell me more about The Iowa Shakespeare Experience and Shakesperience™ Festival!


18. Your “Mid-Summer Day Dreams”™ youth programs are impressive! What do you mean when you explain they are “outcomes-oriented”?


19. The Iowa Shakespeare Experience “Shakesper’ese!” (Shakespeare in Spanish) and other “English as a Second Language” Shakespeare and multi-cultural programs are amazing. Tell me more!


20. Does the Iowa Shakespeare Experience do anything special for Seniors?




1.) What should I bring/wear to make the most of this special evening of riverside entertainment?


Has anyone ever noticed that the weather in Iowa is –hmmmm–changeable? July is often fairly dry, so temperature fluctuations (especially near the river) are our most common “changability factor”. We’re an easy stroll from parking: do go ahead and bring the appropriate accessories!


For example, while we will have limited (but complimentary!) shade umbrellas which you can borrow (and special but equally limited shady seating areas) we strongly suggest you ensure you’ll have shade by bringing your own beach umbrella for the picnic hour. (All umbrellas will be lowered prior to the show.) But when the sun sets (it’ll be totally gone by 10 minutes into the show, we promise) the glorious river breeze can get even a bit chilly: a light wrap, sweater or sweatshirt (yes really!) is recommended. And isn’t that wonderful!


Other things to consider bringing: a moisture-proof groundcloth, cushions or a low lawn chair often adds to your comfort.


Should you bring bug spray? Actually, “Wee Beasties of the Aire” are generally not a large problem in the Amphitheater. However, just in case, we treat you right: we’ll provide some complimentary bug spray at tables in the plaza, or you are welcome to bring your own.  Note that naturally, in "wet" years mosquitoes are a more problematic everywhere- the same is true in the Amphitheater.


You may also want to have on hand some Coin of the Realm or a “Bill for Will”- we have fun programs for sale that will bring a lot of enjoyment to your experience of the show- as well as a chance for you to toss some change into our Intermission “Bard Bucket” to thank the Actors. You’ll really want to!


By the way, for major weather issues like rain, see the information below on our raindates and rain locations. We do our best not to let it rain on the parade!


2.) Tell me about seating options at the Festival:


The Amphitheater provides gently sloped, grassy ground seating surfaces suitable for blankets and lawn chairs, plus a limited amount of rear-area stone seating divans. ALL Amphitheater seats enjoy an excellent view of the stage!


With a request for cooperation from all who attend, we arrange the amphitheater so that those stretching out on blankets are unlikely to have their sightlines blocked by those who bring chairs.


Having said that all seats DO have a great view… still…closer to the stage is where its at! You may purchase special front-section VIP seating passes at the Gate (or may pre-purchase Premiere Platinum seating passes in advance) by calling 515-274-8989. See more information, below.


Or make a party of it! Whether for a romantic evening for 2 or for a group of friends, rent an affordable private cabana tent for “Box Seat” comfort! See below. Purchase a tent this year at our special inaugural price and you’ll have the option to keep introductory pricing opportunities for next year!


For groups of 30 or more, email us at RobinHeinemann.Pres@Gmail.com  (5 days in advance) to make special arrangements for your entire group to sit together! Great for girl’s night out, office gatherings, or clubs.


3.) The idea of a “picnic with panache” sure sounds like fun. Tell me more!


Too bad Sonnet 18 is so right: “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date!” Summer will be gone before we know it- so our riverside picnics are a real, juicy slice of all the season’s best! And yes- you CAN bring your own food and wine.


Picnics are a time-honored tradition at many world-wide Shakespeare Festivals and are a wonderful part of the whole evening. There is something about the combination of the summer stars, Shakespearean sonnets, and our elegant, European-style amphitheater that often makes people break out their best for this special night.


From gourmet foods to bringing your fine linen tablecloths and even a candelabra or two- go for it! We call it “Shakespeare Tailgating!” A midsummer eve at its finest!


And although casual, comfortable clothes are always in style, some folks even come in theme Costumes, Renaissance attire, or in their best frocks and summer frippery!


Our advice: since parking and access to the amphitheater is so easy, do your picnic up proud- and bring along that sun umbrella!


(But because we are an all-volunteer run festival, we do beseech thee and thou: please take ALL thy picnic remnants out with you -or to our handy trash receptacles- as you leave. Many thanks!)


And remember: you’ll have fun regardless, but those who really get into the spirit of being “Lords and Ladies of the land” may find themselves awarded special “on the spot” VIP seating options, if you so move our volunteer usher’s hearts! Picnic with Panache!


· Is it a special occasion? For those attending in celebration of a birthday, anniversary or other special occasion – even a first date!- let us know by 7:45, and we will do our best to make an honorary “Shout out” to you from the stage. “Shall we compare thee to a summer’s day?” We shall!


The grounds open at 6pm for picnics.


4.) Are concessions available on the grounds?


A limited number of yummy treats,  and beverages will be available for purchase. But when they’re gone, they’re gone! Bakeries and cafes are within a short stroll.


5.) OK, you’ve intrigued me. What’s the scoop on VIP seating*?


Oh, you’re gonna love this!


Why rush to get the best? “Some are born great!” (Twelfth Night).


So let us treat you as a King or a Queen! We have a variety of different kinds of VIP seating (types of seating varies wiht the Venue) – and each of them makes a special evening that much more memorable.


And best of all- proceeds go to supporting our terrific, outcome-based youth programs- and to keep our Festival free! (Yep- a portion of some purchases is even tax-deductible!)


Options include: (Rates given are basic rates; rates increase on certain special event nights)


· The “Rennaisance Row” VIP sections: a mere $5 gets you the front rows of your choice of our chairs or blanket sections- keeps you close and comfy! With some exceptions, this section is typically not reserved in advance, but you may purchase this upgrade at the gate without a reservation, as space permits. Not tax deductible.


· Premiere “Royal Court” VIP section: the grassy front “triangle” close to the stage – a very limited area super-close to the stage! Usually requires advance purchase/reservations.


Special Introductory rate: $25 per person, not tax deductible.


· VIP “Box Seat” Tent Pavillions: These tents are perched high on the hill-line overlooking the entire scene –for parties of 2-6 (8 if you really like each other – plus a few more can spill onto the adjacent lawn! But don’t worry- we never charge you beyond 8!)


Currently in the early years of the Festival, we are selling these tents at a flat rate.  Tents are sold through Miwestix.com, where you will find rate information for this year.


Here, guests enjoy a stylish, luxurious cabana feeling – within their own personal, airy shelter providing a bit of protection from sun or wind.  Tents have a grassy floor:  you provide floor cushions, picnic blankets or folding chairs - whatever you like- plus the perfect picnic.  We provide the tent, interior lights or lanterns, and the view! Perfect for that romantic date …or treat special friends to a private little picnic party! Very limited quantity – they’ll go fast! Usually requires advance purchase/reservations.


· VIP Café Tables for 2 or 4: So close you are almost in on the action!  No lugging for these lucky folks! This is pre-set“Cabaret” style seating at intimate café tables right along the stage; you provide your picnic: we provide you with the chairs and table.  Very limited quantity. Snap up a table while you can! Usually requires advance purchase/reservations.

SPECIAL VIP SEATING AT ROLLINS MANSION and OTHER SATELLITE STAGE VENUES:  At venues beyond the Simon Estes Mainstage, we often have extra-special types of VIP seating, such as our exclusive reserved picnic areas at Rollins Mansion.  There, you may find pre-set picnic tables (all dressed up wiht table linens and centerpieces and just waiting for your picnic) which can be purchased either by the seat (at communal tables) or sometimes as a private table.  Usually these come with premiere VIP "box" seat areas for the show, and sometimes with Tax Deductibility!  Fancy having your picnic at a private Kings Table -imagine being tucked away on your own stone balcony, or in a special Garden tale with a select few other revelers comprised of friends old and new?  Check out the otpions at Midwestix.com and get set to enjoy a most memorable evening!

*IMPORTANT NOTICE: At the discretion of management, VIP seating not claimed by 8pm may be donated to volunteers, other special festival friends – or lucky Groundlings!


6.) I love how you are growing this Festival! This is certainly a cultural amenity a Capital City should have. How do I find out more, volunteer, or become a member? 


“Thou art as wise as thou are beautiful!” (Midsummer Night’s Dream) - and we love ya for it! At the very least, the wise will sign up for our free e-newsletter! (Do so on here on our web or at the Festival.)


It’s hard to think of a group more fun than the Bard Bunch. Our members and volunteers have a great time- they’re invited to all “the best” parties, and have many rewarding opportunities to help. Check out the membership and newsletter opportunities at the booth in the plaza, or fill out the basic information form on this website.  If you want to volunteer, email RobinHeinemann.Pres@Gmail.com!


7.) “But for my own part, it was GREEK to me!” (Julius Caesar). I’m new to Shakespeare. Will I “get it?”


Think Iambic Pentameter should be a race at the Drake Relays? Have no fear- our expert Shakespearean Artists will “Get Thee to the Funnery!” (See – you are getting it already!) All over the world, Shakespeare is beloved for time-tested stories (and reeeaaally wacky in-jokes). So stick with us- we’ll make sure you fit right in!


Want an extra “Bill Boost”? Plop down A BUCK FOR BILL for a PLAY- BILL program that will walk you through the scenes- or better yet, attend our opening night Director’s Talk for the insider’s view.


After all- Shakespeare is hot! And so very cool!


8.) I love the special fun touches you bring to the Bard. But I’m also into Rennaisance! Like most Shakespeare Festivals, do you do “classic” or “traditional” Shakespeare - - or other classics, too?


You bet! The more the merrier, we always say! In upcoming seasons and in our incomparable winter indoor productions, watch for many more interpretations of the Bard and other classic Playwrights – from the exquisitely classical to Renaissance revels to the most scholarly pensive.


9.) How long do shows run? Do you have an intermission? And what about “the necessaries!”


We often shorten exceptionally long-running Shakespearean works- our shows run about 2 and a half hours. There is at least one intermission per show, sometimes two.


About our intermissions: although our shows are free, many want to contribute to keep them that way! Participate in “FREE (ahem) WILL” offerings taken during intermission. We thank thee!


And as for the “necessary”, we provide the finest portable “Thrones” (perhaps “potty” is the term you moderns use?) that our rental money can buy! So give more- and give often!


10.) What does “Repertory” mean?


Repertory is one of those theatre words that stage freaks argue about. But essentially, during seasons when we do “Repertory”, “Repertory” means that we are doing not just one, but TWO (or more) different shows in the same season, often back to back, for your entertainment delight. “Can one desire too much of a good thing?” (As You Like It). We think not- and many come to the Festival on several nights, to see both shows- - because they don’t want to miss a thing!


When we present two shows, each show will be very different- and we term our approach to Repertory as offering “true repertory”- meaning that many of our Actors have mastered being cast in both of these two different shows virtually at once. This is a wonderful artistic challenge worthy only of the best theatre artists.


So during a Repertory season, come back for both shows- after all, its FREE- and you will marvel as our talented troupe of Actors takes on the rich reward of mastering two shows simultaneously!


11.) What arrangements are there for those who are physically challenged?


MOBILITY: Mobility issues are different for each venue.  The amphitheatre and plaza area contains no stairs, but the slope into the seating area is at a somewhat steep grade - -so caution is advised. The City of Des Moines maintains an elevator but due to flooding, it is currently inoperable. However, special areas for wheelchair and “top of the hill” seating are available.  Other venues typically have less specific areas for wheelchair access and often have uneven ground or areas requiring short steps.


HEARING: We use amplified sound.


STROBE-LIGHT: Note that occasionally, we may use a strobe light during a performance.


12.) What about Smoking?


To ensure the enjoyment of all and in compliance with regulations, there is no smoking inside any of our Festival Venues.  Note that this is not just our rule - City law, for example, prevents smoking inside the Amphitheater or in the entry plaza.  There may occasionally be smoke used as stage prop only.  


13.) What about Rain or other weird weather?


Being Iowans, we go up in any hot temperature- but we do watch cold, wet weather and wind! The Bard wrote “The Tempest”, after all. So we do our best not to let it rain on the parade!


We handle weather with a systematic approach. First, if there is merely a chance of rain, do bring umbrellas-because we will likely proceed with the show. We usually have a good idea where any pesky storm cells are and will keep audiences advised. Our shows will continue during a very light rain, or for as long as possible prior to any closure. If radar shows the wet will pass, we may take an unscheduled break until things clear. There are plenty of very nearby cafes and other places for the audience to keep dry while we pause – tho your umbrellas will come in handy! And the amphitheater drains nicely- we DO open even after a heavy rainy day. Although that would be a great time to bring a waterproof blanket liner or a lawnchair.


Second, if we are certain a show will not be able to go up due to weather, or in very doubtful situations, a message will be available at 515 274 8989. Also check this website for updates.


Third, especially if it has been a particularly rainy stretch, we are likely to offer an indoor free show on the same nights as we’d planned for the outdoor festival. Our indoor locations are set up to be virtually as fun and festive as is our outdoor location! The atmosphere will still be pretty great- it can be romantic to cozy up inside during a raging thunderstorm! In fact, you are likely to still be able to bring picnics to the indoor show- think of it as an indoor picnic or “dinner theatre”.


To find out about whether (and where) we are offering an indoor show on the same nights as we had planned for an outdoor show, check this website’s “Weather” page - - and especially the phone message line. The messages will also tell you if you need to bring lawn chairs to the indoor location.


Finally, in addition to our indoor show rain locations, we also have certain limited capacities for Raindates - -on which we will hold an additional show or two in the Amphitheater itself. Most of these shows take place on weekdays between our weekend dates. More information will again be on this website under our Weather pages, but also check 515 274 8989.


Special Note: Because our riverside location cools nicely, we do go up no matter the heat index. But for the same reason, during a particularly cold night (especially if its damp), we may opt for an alternative indoor location —even if it is not outright raining. A sign will be posted at the Amphitheater, but as always, check this website and our message line at 515 274 8989.


14.) What about children?


We love children- and children love our shows! Naturally, during a show is not the time for children to run around or play in any way distracting to others.  However, any child able to sit and marvel at the wonder of live theatre is extremely welcome, although parents should be advised that some of our shows have certain (very limited) amounts of adult content. That Bard was a sexy –and sometimes bloodthirsty- guy!


Also, feel free to have your child meet some of the Actors after the shows! And be sure to check out the FREE youth learning opportunities we often offer through community organizations such as area libraries.  Check this year’s detailed Festival schedule for more information. 


One special note about children at the Festival: sound carries in the amphitheater. So out of courtesy to the Actors and audience, we do request that parents quickly escort restless or talkative children to the top of the Amphitheater, well into the plaza area.


We also request that for safety reasons, children stay close with their parents while on the grounds. Remember: there is electrical equipment and wiring on the premises!


15.) How do I find the Amphitheater?


The beautiful, European-style Simon Estes Amphitheater is located in the heart of downtown Des Moines (Iowa) on the East side of the Riverwalk - a short stroll takes you to the cafes, shops and after-show entertainment of the East Village or the Court Avenue District. Nearby hotels are plentiful.


The amphitheater features a sensational view of the river and the twinkling skyline!


Find the Amphitheater on East First Street between the Locust and Walnut street Bridges, directly across from the Embassy Suites Hotel and just south of City Hall.


Several I-235 exit options will take you there.  There is also a map available in these webpages.


16.) Where can I park when attending an Amphitheatre show?


Ample FREE parking is extremely convenient to the Amphitheater.


After 5:30 pm, you are welcome to use the “cattycorner” city lot just north-east of the Amphitheater, directly across from City Hall.


Or feel free to use an UNHOODED meter space – check the hours, but in the evening meters near the Amphitheater most likely are free. 




17.) Tell me more about The Iowa Shakespeare Experience and Shakesperience™ Festival!


The Iowa Shakespeare Experience (ISE) is a registered Non-profit Corporation in the State of Iowa. All contributions are fully tax deductible - we became a 501(c)3 agency in 2011.


Our signature event is the annual summer “Shakeperience™ Festival” – but the ISE is much more than just a summer festival producer. Watch as we grow for much more information on our winter classic playwright entertainment series, our “Found Space” theatre series (we are experts in this special art form that creates some of the most memorable theatre imaginable) and our truly extraordinary youth and multi-cultural programs.  Tabs on this website will take you to those listings


Also see the “About ISE” tab of our main Site Menu (off our primary homepage) on this website for more information


18.) Your “Mid-Summer Day Dreams”™ youth programs are impressive! What do you mean when you explain they are “outcome-oriented”?


Under our reorganization as the ISE, our popular “Mid-Summer Day Dreams”™ youth programs - featuring original curriculum we developed and field tested for years- are now able to be implemented using national best-practice “Logic Model” methods which ensure both optimal and measurable outcomes.


Our staff are nationally-published experts in creating optimal outcomes for youth using arts-based strategies. They are certified in multiple areas of education- from multi-cultural efforts to working with gifted and talented youth - - to working with the most vulnerable, high-risk youth populations. Our methodology allows us to measure our youth program outcomes using statistically measurable change markers in various risk characteristics, such as risk of school drop-out, drug/alcohol/gang involvement, teen suicide and teen pregnancy.


We have a full set of professional evaluation criteria for youth and artistic programming, and many other professional tools that we routinely use. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information, and watch for much more as we develop this website- and further develop much more enhanced versions of our programs.


See the “About our Educational programs” and youth programs tabs on this website for more information


19.) The Iowa Shakespeare Experience “Shakeper’ese!” (Shakespeare in Spanish) and other “English as a Second Language Shakespeare and multi-cultural programs are amazing. Tell me more!


Yes, we are frequently asked about this very unique programming- programming that we are uniquely qualified to create! These types of programs garner us statewide, regional and even national notice among a select few artists around the country doing this type of work. Watch for further information on this website- but for now, suffice it to say that we don’t just offer “color-blind” casting or merely translate Shakespeare into other languages for ESL speakers. We do all that, of course- but we ALSO work with emerging or professional artists from the ESL community to involve them directly in the production of ESL-oriented shows- both on stage and back stage!


20.) Does the Iowa Shakespeare Experience do anything special for Seniors?


Of course! We are active instructors with several of the area’s “Senior Colleges” – to rave reviews! Check our Education pages, and don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more!


Some are Born Great!  Twelfth Night

So - - why rush to get the best?  Purchase a seat in one of our VIP seating areas in advance (or at the door while they last.)


 Various VIP Seating Levels:

"The King doth Keep his revels here tonight!"

Let us treat you as a King or Queen!  We have a varety different levels of Festival VIP seating based on the particular Venue- and each of them makes a special evening that much more memorable. 

(Plus, best of all:  proceeds go to supporting our terrific, outcome-based youth projects – and to keeping the Festival coming back year after year!)


Some Options for VIP seating are:



· AT SIMON ESTES AMPHITHEATER: The “Rennaisance Row” VIP sections: a mere $5 gets you the front rows of your choice of our chairs or blanket sections- keeps you close and comfy! With some exceptions, this section is typically not reserved in advance, but you may purchase this upgrade at the gate without a reservation, as space permits. Not tax deductible.  These are NOT reserved seats- it is “first-come first-served” as to your choice of seating within this section  


· AT SIMON ESTES AMPHITHEATER: Premiere “Royal Court” VIP section: This option entitles you to bring your picnic or chairs to the grassy front “triangle” area ultra close to the stage – a very limited area super-close to the stage! Usually requires advance reservations.  These are NOT reserved seats- it is “first-come first-served” as to your choice of seating within this section. Contact Robin@IowaShakespeare.org for information.


Current rates: $25 per person, not tax deductible.


· AT SIMON ESTES AMPHITHEATRE: VIP “Box Seat” Tent Pavillions: Want a most memorable way to enjoy the festival or celebrate a special occaision or a special night out with that certain someone? The Festival's tents are the way to go!  These tents are perched high on the hill-line overlooking the entire scene –for parties of 2-6 (8 if you really like each other – plus a bunch more can spill onto the adjacent lawn! 


Here, guests enjoy a stylish, luxurious cabana feeling – within their own personal, airy shelter that provides a bit of protection from sun or wind.  Mostly, these tents help you picnic with panache! You provide the picnic, cushions, seating or other accoutrements as you desire.  We provide the tent at JUST the right part of the hill, interior tent lighting, and one terrific show!  Perfect for that romantic date …or treat special friends to a private little picnic party! Very limited quantity – they’ll go fast! Usually requires advance purchase/reservations.


Special Introductory rate for Private Tents:  $100  advance; $25 tax deductible (for tax deductiility, print off this page and keep it with your purchase reciept- no further tax information will be sent).  PURCHASE THESE TICKETS THROUGH MIDWESTIX.COM.  Limited availability to purchase at the door may exist, and these rates are usually higher than the Midwestix advance purchase rates.   Keep in mind: this is RESERVED SPACE and numbers of tents are VERY limited.  


Refunds are offered in case of Rain- see policies described at Midwestix.com.


-Reservations not claimed by 8pm may be released to other Festival attendees.  If you arrive late and notify us you are here, we will do our best to reseat you at intermission.  


· AT SIMON ESTES AMPHITHEATER: VIP Café Tables for 2 or 4: So close you are almost in on the action! “Cabaret” style seating at intimate café tables right along the stage; Very limited quantity.  We provide tables, chairs, an unbeatable location, and a terrific show. You provide for your food and beverage needs. Snap up a table while you can! Usually requires advance purchase/reservations.


Special Introductory Rate for Cabaret Tables: $50 per person; two-person minimum and maximum; $100 per table.  $25 tax deductible (for tax deductibility, print off this notice and keep it with your purchase reciept - no further notice will be sent.). PURCHASE THESE TICKETS THROUGH MIDWESTIX.COM.  Limited availability to purchase at the door may exist:  Door-purchased Cabaret Table tickets are usually priced higher.  This is RESERVED SPACE and extremely limited.    


Refunds are offered in case of Rain- see policies described at Midwestix.com.

-Reservations not claimed by 8pm may be released to other patrons.   If you arrive late and notify us you are here, we will do our best to re-seat you at intermission

SPECIAL VIP SEATING AT OTHER VENUES:  For other Festival venues such as our remarkable Rollins Mansion Garden stage, we often offer a great array of other special types of VIP seating, most also with tax deductibility to thank you for your support of the festival.  Be sure to check it out at Midwestix.com - don't thou miss it!







Welcome out of town guests! The Iowa Shakesperience Fest wholeheartedly supports tourism in Iowa’s Capital! 


Moreover, we actively help generate tourism – and valuable tourism-related benefits for our community.


Check out the information below!  And DO sign in on our guest register – we’d love to know you were here!


The Iowa Shakespeare Experience and tourism:


Data shows that Shakespeare Festivals routinely attract folks from a 90 mile radius, and our data shows that the ISE is right on track: we routinely draw visitors from areas like Atlantic, Pella, Oskaloosa and Winterset along with many other visitors from out of state!


So we want our visitors to know:  Des Moines and its terrific suburbs is an amazing place to visit- full of cultural and artistic riches, wonderful shopping, and glorious restaurants.


Watch this site for more information as we continue to develop our partnerships with some of central Iowa’s leading businesses.


Meanwhile, we recommend that during a visit to Metro Des Moines, you consider creating an “All Will” weekend in greater Des Moines by checking out listings for the following great Shakespeare-inspired activities:


  • A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!- Check out our local horse back riding options!
  • Lord, what fools these mortals be! Don’t miss our fun local comedy clubs!
  • More matter with less art: Get thee to the Art Center and to the Pappajohn Public Art Garden for a world-class adventure into contemporary (even minimalist!) art!
  • Let every eye negotiate for itself: You will LOVE our local Galleries – and do stop by the only gallery located directly on the Riverwalk (West side) – The Polk County Heritage Gallery
  • A king of infinite space: Children especially with love an exciting visit to the Des Moines Science Center!
  • If music be the food of love, play on: Area choices for music are simply outstanding- from the local Club scene  to the super vibes at Iowa’s Coffeehouses (try the line up at Ritual Café!).  And then of course there are our world-class programs of the Des Moines Metro Opera, Des Moines Symphony, and Civic Music Association– especially the FREE outdoor Belin Quartet concert line up on Fridays at the noon-hour (Nollen Plaza) during the summer.  And while we are talking about fabulous, free outdoor music:  Check out the incredible Thursday night line up at Jasper Winery (an in-town winery) or stop by for wine tasting anytime!
  • A Dish fit for the Gods:  Restaurants in Des Moines have been written up in some of the nation’s most impressive publications, from the New York Times to Gourmet Magazine. Azalae, Sbrocco, Gateway Market and Café Di Scala have all won ultra-impressive awards- and the extraordinary chocolates and gelato at Choclaterie Stams can be purchased no where else in the world but in greater Des Moines and in Holland!
  • All’s Well That Ends Well:  Our area has a wonderful array of Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts: one such special place is the Butler House on Grand!
  • The World’s Mine Oyster:  Check terrific guides as to “what’s happening” in the Metro’s free Cityview paper or in dsm magazine…so as not to miss so many additional special places well worth exploring – such as the Joie de Vie Tea Salon in Historic Sherman Hill.  Zanzibar’s coffeehouse on Ingersoll is a true local scene-maker – and the Des Moines Botanical Center provides a wonderful “trip to the tropics” that is a completely unique experience!  Another don’t miss: shopping – especially at the unique, atmosphere-laden treasure chests found in the Historic East Village or in Valley Junction!  And the website of Metro Arts Alliance will point you to an astonishing number of additional cultural choices – including more great theatre at the Des Moines Playhouse and Stagewest!
© 2018 Iowa Shakespeare Experience