Audience Testimonials:

The "Will of the People!"

(Also see "Reviewer Praise" pages...)

3B.jpgISE is always delighted to hear from our audience members;  and they share feedback with us in various ways.  Some fill out our Audience Feedback forms (you'll find them as Tear Sheets on your program - just drop them off into the Bard Basket or at the front desk - or you can find a form here on line off of our Home page.)  Others email us directly. But whatever the source, we pay close attention to all the info that comes in!

Of all the great feedback and encouragement we get from our audiences, we wanted to share a few particularly meaningful or detailed comments about our summer festival with you here!  (Comments about our winter shows will be found in that section.) And keep those cards letters and scrolls comin'!


Kathy MB of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute says: "Bravo!  I would not have thought possible that last night's 2010 performance could have been anywhere near as wonderful as last year's 2009 shows that I just loved, given the (Flood-related) change of venue and all, but I specially drove home early from a trip to Omaha for this anyway-  - and I am happy to say I was wrong!  Last night's performance, entertainment, state setting, adaptation, actors, all of it was absolutely fabuloso.  It was as good as last year and maybe even better.  Please tell everyone how much we enjoyed it.  Cannot wait to see what you have in store for us next year.  Thank you for a wonderful evening.  Will continue to spread the word through the Greater Des Moines Leadership network!"  

 Anna says:  "As a 2010 ISU theatre graduate, I spent my first summer out of school seeking out theatre in Des Moines, and saw several area productions - virtually all of them.  The ISE production stood head and shoulders above any other summer offerings - it was terrific!  And, I especially appreciated the care the ISE takes for the audience's experience- unlike in some other venues, I could both hear AND see the Actors.  I had a wonderful time!"  

"T" says:  "I am an experienced consumer of the arts- and I am speechless.  This was incredible work- incredible acting, seamless play adaptation- and I went on Family Night, which was packed - the looks on the kids faces were priceless.  It was magic. Astonishing too how many, many families happily stayed throught the entire show- we saw one Mom who apparently felt it was her child's bedtime, but the youngster was simply begging not to leave! Yet you certainly never once "dumbed anything down" for the kids.  Your sophisticated and enlightening approach simply elevates the entire audience - adults AND youth - - into the work - it was just a great big wow!"  

From an anonymous audience member:  (On our first visit) "I wanted to go, but my husband said he hat(ed) Shakespeare and didn't want to come.  I had to drag him- but he just loved it!  What you do -interlaying songs into the play and also the other parts of the festival- is exactly the right approach!  In fact, my husband loved it so much he said he already wanted to come back! I can't wait!"    

From Jami McLamb:  "My 7 yr old daughter came ... and dressed up a table with a candelabra and everything, and she said it was the coolest thing she'd ever been to!!! She slipped off her shoes and danced all through!! Absolutely loved the talent and what a great production!!!  


"We're from Dubuque and came across the Fest by accident last year - LOVED it last year, so we drove down specially for this and are going to stay overnight for both shows!  This is amazing! "    (Note on our surveys.)

"Knew we wouldn't be alone in trusting the great River breeze!  There are several hundred people here despite the heat - as word spreads about the great show and the breeze, you're gonna gotta have more nights!- by popular demand!"   (Note on our surveys)

And, from the many great comments on our Facebook sites during these years, how about this one from LF:  "WOW! Great show Sunday on the river! Thanks for delving into a part of Shakespeare few dare to tread, the women! (I promptly went home and watched Stage Beauty!) The stars must have been aligned yesterday. Des Moines joined Toronto and the rest of the world with our own Slut Walk. It seems we've come a long way since the days of the Bard. As women know though, we have a ways to go still. Thanks Iowa Shakespeare for keeping real!"  

SOME OF OUR FAVORITE COMMENTS from our 2013 Romeo and Juliet show:

From a Romeo and Juliet audience member: "I have to tell ya this was COOL!  This was my wife's deal but it was so COOL"

A WEBPOST: B.W:  "Bravo to the entire cast (of Romeo and Juiet)! The last hour or so will remain fresh in my mind, for a long while yet.  I'll try to catch it at least once more."


Des Moines Register published Theater Reviewer Bruce Carr says:
Bruce was in the audience this night not as a formal reviewer, but "just" to enjoy.  He was kind enought to write us the following email note: "The Passion of Othello" is surely the most successful, and most compelling, of the five ( ISE) productions I've seen.  (This comment has meaning to us - because we note that Mr. Carr wrote a wonderful formal review last year about our 2012 Romeo and Juliet- so we are delighted he continues to be so pleased!)

He continued: “Certainly the audience was  attentive -- quiet and undistracted” --and further: “I was not troubled by any single inadequate actor.” Its a “fine bunch” - and we here at ISE heartily agree!  Kudos to a terrific cast!

JM Feilmeyer, Audience Member: “I went to Othello on Sunday! We kept putting it off because of the weather, and wasn't that smart of us! We really won the gamble with Sunday evening. :-)  Anyway, great show!  I enjoyed the interpretation and the acting, especially Iago. How evil!” (email)

Nancy Crowfoot, Iowa Public Television Producer: “Keep up the creative, artistic work!” (email)

Terry Lint, Lint Van Lines“I honestly think each year it is the best show ever- but this year I truly truly think it was THE best one yet.  By the way - - Lorenzo has amazing Gravitas as an Actor -  Wow!”

Nancy Norman (who knows her way about both Shakespeare and the theatre world) wrote to say: “I was blown away by the play last night.  It was very professionally done.  The acting, the music, the dance were all terrific and made for a fun evening.  The play, with heavy subject matter, kept the audience enthralled.  What a night for theater! Bouquets all around!”  

Iowa's Appanoose Theatre Camp Director shared with us:“Othello was THE highlight of our camp summer. The kids did nothing but talk about the show on the entire 2 hour bus trip back.  We are from Britain, and have been looking at your website- -excited to see all that is going on- hope we can do a joint project together soon!”

Anonoymous Audience Member:  “This was amazing.  You guys really nail this Shakespeare stuff!”

From the Orduna's: “We are coming back tomorrow night and bringing our grandchildren.  We had no idea the festival offered this extraordinary quality.  This was absolutely incredible and keep up the great work!”

Mary Ellen Kimball: “Kimballs loved Othello! We sat stage-side for Othello on Thursday and loved it!  Best seats in the house.  I was telling folks about your wonderful “Christmas Carol” at Terrce Hill.  I suggested they find out about that event and get tickets right away.  Also, when you get ready to talk to (Lakeside Casino) about bringing out a show, let me know.  You two must be exhausted. I had no idea you had to put everything away every night!  Relax and enjoy one another!”

From a teacher at West Des Moines' Walnut Creek Campus Alternative High School, C.J. M: "It was such an interesting take on Othello. I really enjoyed it!"

Mary Gottschalk made a point of telling us this:  “We really enjoyed Othello- great job!  It was an excellent evening and very good fun!”

Kent Zimmerman:  "We loved it - and we will come back again next year for sure!"

An audience member at a tent party told us of the way in which her son liked the play perhaps in spite of himself- AND could readily understand and relate to our adaptation of the story: “My son originally did not want to come to this.  But when I thought he was tiring, he said 'No Mom, I want to stay'.  And then when I tried to warn him that Desdemona dies, he said: 'I know Mom- I have been listning to the words!' 

A note from "Matt" who tells us he is a Construction Sales manager by day and a Saylorville Windsurfter in his free time:  "I have been coming to the festival ever since I found out about it 3 years ago.  I really really liked Othello and appreciate the richness that this festival adds to summer.  I love to come to Simon Estes"

Anonymous note in the Bard Basket:  "Thanks for Keeping it FREE!"



(Possibly our "all time favorite" to date!)






The Crites got in touch with us this Spring, and we were so touched by their story
(and so sorry that in all their years of attending, we hadn't met them yet!)
that we requested permission to print their story here.


This is what they wrote (and of course we gave them a sneak peek!);


In the summer of 2008 we began a tradition of celebrating our wedding anniversary by attending the Iowa Shakespeare Experience Summer FEST. We’ve made it to all but one of these wonderful performances at the Simon Estes Amphitheater (and once -during the flood- on the street adjacent to the amphitheater). Oftentimes we begin our date with dinner in Des Moines, where we can find cuisine not offered where we live -- Malcom, Iowa, population 276, 60 miles east of Des Moines. Other times we pack a cooler and enjoy a picnic on the east bank of the Des Moines River as we watch the sun set behind the city’s skyline. (We"ll) go all out, and book a room at the Embassy Suites! We can’t wait to join our Iowa neighbors on the hill for another great Summer FEST!


(In) hoping to continue our tradition this summer...We're also hoping to use some airline miles that are about to expire to book a room at the Embassy Suites, which is why I'm contacting you about dates for the 2014 summer festival rather than waiting for them to be posted on the ISE website. Is there a chance you'd be willing to share the dates with me now, on the condition that I reveal the information to no one but my wife?

I'm an Iowan. You can trust me!

~ Todd & Danya Crites


MAY 1 UPDATE FROM THE CRITES: "We've booked our room and will attend the Friday performance!  We'll be sure to introduce ourselves to you when we arrive at the FEST for our early anniversary celebration. Thanks for the work you do to make this event memorable!" (IOWA SHAKESPEARE SAYS:  You are so welcome!)


Finally, a long time supporter sent us some very kind thoughts based on an article he read from Opera America magazine.  He wrote to suggest that if we interchange the words and concept of "Opera" and "Shakespeare", that the following specific, explicit dynamics described in the article seem to him to be very applicable to the current work, values and outcomes demonstrated by ISE - -or to provide his direct personal quote:  "I think in many ways this  - below- is what ISE has always been doing - and doing well!":

"It takes faith in the curiosity of people to produce repertoire which, like Shakespeare, (few) know.  It also requires educating and captivating audience beyond its expectations. Our audiences in these art forms have learned over the years to take these journeys."  ..."the best audiences... have no preconcieved ideas about what things should be, so they just go in there and experience something." Continuing: "An experience is something that exists in the memory for a lifetime - and- unusual repertoire in unusual ways lingers longer". These are art forms which slowly but surely "build a trust such that people say 'I might not like everything, but its going to be interesting; I will be challenged, I will see something I can't see most likely anywhere else"  Finally: "People like to bring something to a performance. They bring their curiosity, but they also like to bring their imagination - and they come back again and again because they know it's not one work that defines us."


An especially kind note from Carolyn J. and our Colleagues at Ballet Des Moines, which has great meaning to us as we expand into being the Metro's Festival of the Classic Arts: "Robin, I can't believe it is coming upon two weeks since our AMAZING production!!!  (Belin, Ballet and the Bard). I just wanted to say thank you for this wonderful opportunity to collaborate and as always - you are an absolute delight, and more importantly, a doer that dreams big and achieves! You have my utmost respect and fondess.  I am grateful for the chance to work with both you and Lorenzo and look forward to future opportunities as we build a strong and collaborative arts community together!"

From  our very valued Colleagues at the Belin String Quartet who wrote a lovely handwritten card:  "Robin, thank you so much for including the Belin Quartet this year.  It was so great collaborating with you on this project. We look forward to staying in touch!"

Still more on our highly successful collaborations - here is a note from Carol Olson, the Miss Greater Des Moines Pageant coordinator who helped lead our ability to have crowned Royalty - such as Miss Iowa herself- - as our Ushers for our very special Fifth Anniversary shows: "Robin and Lorenzo, THANK YOU for being so welcoming and helpful to our Miss Greater Des Moines girls when they shared your stage during the Shakespearean performances.  All reports that I've heard indicate that it was an amazing experience.Thank you, again!!"

From Othello Cast Member Valeria Avina, an URTA Alum and MFA Student at the University of Iowa's terrific theatre program (and ISE's inaugural Actor with our new state-wide Talent Placement Program):  "I just wish people could see how much FUN it was in rehearsals!  Goats and Monkeys!"

Past ISE Volunteer Extraordinarire Ava Rogers was hired this year in a more formal capacity for Crew. - in the very demanding and important role of House Manager  She thoughtfully wrote us to say: "I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy my experience with ISE and I would do it all over again!  Thank you for the oppertunity to get to work and know the cast and crew and both of you!"

QUOTES FROM ISE's 2012 STACY KEACH EVENT ATTENDEES:  LN says: "The Stacy Keach event was just PERFECT!"  JB wrote: "SO proud to be an ISE supporter - the Keach event was a real class act!" Mike Cornelison wrote: "(The Keach event) effectively shifted the persona of The Shakespeare Experience from just one among a group of well-intentioned, struggling local theater companies to a position of a viable civic institution.  You could feel it."  (Rest in peace, Mike- your assistance with the first 2 years of our Shakespeare productions -and with our 2011 Keach event- will always be a treasured memory.) And Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach says:  "What the Iowa Shakespeare Experience is doing is great!" .


ISE's PEOPE - be it Actors, crew, Board members or audience, make us what we are! 

And as usual, ISE's people both past and pesent are up to great things!


First, a hearty congratulations to one of ISE's favorite hearthrob's, Matt Wiggins, who was recently elected to the Board of Directors for the Iowa Motion Picture Association - and who recently served as Master of Ceremonies for the Board's award show. Congratulations, Matt!


Hearty congratulations also to ISE Board Member Barb Adams, as she takes on a major promotion as a Principal for Des Moines Public Schools.  Great job, Barb!


Congratulations as well to ISE Board Member Connie Ode.  Connie's Big Book on Iowa's Festivals  continues to be featured at festivals all over Iowa!  What a treasure trove of Iowa culture! 


And, ISE's founding Board member Bruce Hughes continues his extraordinary leadership of the arts broadly in Iowa.  Recently moveing on from his position as president for Des Moines Metro Opera (AND for the Metro Opera Foundation), Bruce now brings his leadership talents to the Art Center board as well -.  Bruce's work with some of the most prominent arts organizations in central Iowa make us so very very proud to continue to have his guidance on ISE's Executive Commiettee as we keep on moving forward!And- we are particularly delighted to announce that Bruce won the 2016 AWE (Art Within Everthing Award) for his owrk in founding ISE- an award given only to 4 Metro leaders annually by Metro Arts Alliance!  Congratulations, Bruce!

We also remain thrilled to have had and have the ferquent guidance of local cultural lumnaries such as Tracy Levine, Elvin MacDonald, and Frank Fogarty.  And as always, ISE's longtime Vice President Cindy De Pond continues to cut a cultural swath in central Iowa- frm Metro Arts Alliance to Winefest and now the Directorof  Waukee's innovative ArtsCentral programs, Cindy always cuts a meaningiful swatch for Iowa's arts Scene. 


Also a delighted nod to all of the great success that's been coming to two great actresses, both featured on the Iowa Shakespereince Festival stage in years past! Tiffany Flory, with us in both 2010 and 2011 (the latter as a star of ISE's Regina Monologues) has now completed her MFA work and has been back appearing --and winning her usual great accolades-- on stages all over central Iowa!  Congratulatoins, Tiffany!  


Other ISE actresses with us in our early years include Kerry Scram and Jami Bassman, who are also often cited for great work on various stages here in central Iowa. Plus, the legendary Kiim Gramadi's very first Shakespearean work was with ISE!  Many other wonderful actresses who've appeared with ISE can addiitonally be found on stages both near and far. 


Too, of course we fondly remember wonderful Actors we've enjoyed featuring in ISE productions as well. Often garnering great praise for their work on the boards all across central Iowa have been Mark Gruber, Mike Davenport, John Busbee, Bob Fry, Tom Milligan- and of course, we will always remember the amazing Mike Cornelison, and his iniimmediate strong support for ISE's beginings from our very first season. Joe Leonardiand James Serpento also come readily to mind as we remember other great ISE involvement. 


Additionally, actress Amy Burgemeir (whose original rendition of a special song for ISE is posted here on our website for you to listen to at your leisure... don't niss it - Amy's singing is, as usua,l superb!) who was featured in our very first FREE season at Simon Estes, has found great success after her subsequent move to New York City.  Amy was picked up by New York's traveling version of Annie the Musical -- and fairly recently was back in the Midwest on the extraordinary Starlight Theatre stage in Kansas City in that show.  Wow!  Amy, you were a peach in our production - and we are so excited for your ongoing success! 


Next, we bid a sad farewell to ISE favorite Jarrett Brown, who recently wrote us this extremely thoughtful letter as he prepared to return to Oregon, where he was involved in that state's bustling film and commercial television scene. To borrow from Jarret's own words, Jarrett himself has "a lot of class!":


Dear Lorenzo and Robin,

As we discussed the last time we met at the great Des Moines Club special event, I will be moving back to Portland, Oregon this summer, in late June.

It is with great sadness that when I leave Iowa, that I will be leaving all the wonderful people I have met and all the lasting relationships I have built.

And at the top of that list are the folks at Iowa Shakespeare- especially both of you.

So I would really like to take this time to say Thank You to all the Iowa Shakespeare Experience has provided me.

The good times we've had rehearsing and performing 'A Christmas Carol' will forever be etched in my mind and will always be synonymous to my time in Iowa. I won't be able to hear the word Iowa and not think of the work we did together.

And of course when Dracula came along, I was just touched to be considered for a part of it. Then you told me I was getting the role of Jonathan Harker, I was blown away.

I am proud of what we accomplished with Dracula, everybody pulled together and this show stands to date as my favorite theatrical role and my proudest moments in Iowa.

To be invited into Terrace Hill and Jordan House and to now be a part of the history of those houses makes me feel honored. ISE provided that.


  •     So I have worked with many writers/directors/producers in the past, but I just want to say, you treat your actors well. You keep a tight ship and let your actors know what is expected of them. You are open and honest and it shows that you have the professional experience to provide audiences with the highest level of theatrical experience. Thank you again.
  •     Also, to be able to provide a monetary stipend for your actors and actresses sets you apart and is just another example that ISE has an immense amount of class.
  •     In sum, you provided an avenue to present my art and to perform, allowing me to do what I love, and that is priceless.
  •     In my opinion (feel free to share this with your Board and thank them for all the treats to the Actors) Iowa Shakespeare Experience has been a saving grace for actors in the State of Iowa. You provide superior performances in the most unique of settings. In all my years of work in theater I have never seen anything like it.


But beyond all that, I also want to speak of the good times we had after the performances were done. When Robin would crack a bottle of wine and we would just hang out. We'd talk about life and films, theater, history, or whatever came up. We could laugh and enjoy our time at these unique settings. I thank you for these moments, and providing us with snacks and drinks and for just being so kind.

In sum, find it difficult to write this email as I am tearing up. As I prepare to leave I remember how well you both have treated me, you are a part of my Iowa family and I wish great things for ISE and the both of you personally.

My time with ISE and the work I have done with you both will be the biggest thing I will miss in Iowa.

Again, I leave in late-June, so please keep me up to date on all happenings involving ISE.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

Jarrett Brown



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