Sunday - Wednesday July 9-12

(Monday is a Raindate only...)

Doors open at 7pm for picnics and a cash wine bar

Curtain is at 8pm.  



(2016 at Terrace Hill)



Festival Schedule and Show overview 


July 29 and 30




Friday and Saturday July 20-30 2016 at Iowa’s Governor’s Mansion


What:  “Shakespeare under the Stars”; Iowa’s annual FREE Shakesperience Festival of the Classical Performing Arts


Who:  Produced by The Iowa Shakespeare Experience, a non-profit funded for the festival by the Iowa Arts Council and Bravo Greater Des Moines


Price:  PRICE-LESS!  We work so hard to keep this FREE, no tickets are needed!        Come and enjoy!


Dates:  Friday July 29 and Saturday July 30 2016




  • Grounds open at 6pm for picnics with music by Chicago’s Alex Murphy Jazz Trio
  • Shows start at 7:30


2016 Festival Theme:  One Acts and Picnic Bites featuring The Legends of Laughter and Love


2016 Festival Shows:  The 2016 line up features 4 creative One Act plays that honor 400 years of the Bard’s creative muse


  • THE 2016 MARQUEE HEADLINER: Romeo and Juliet, Thrice Told Tales (internationally lauded play listed at Number 5 in the world in Cambridge's “Channel the Bard” International Shakespeare Short Play festival).  International Reviewers call this play: Laugh out loud funny, yet thoughtful, romantic – with a very satisfying ending!
  • Additional festival 2016 plays by Lorenzo Sandoval: Amuse Bouche, a humorous story of contemporary young love haunted by Hamlet!
  • Additional festival 2016 plays: Tales from the Garden, an adaptation from Mark Twain by Lorenzo Sandoval featuring a funny reimagining of the story of Adam and Eve
  • Plus short sets of free Opera from European Touring star Marie Fuller, MM, along with tastes of  Ballet and classical dance


Additional Festival Amenites:


  • Iowa Jazz Diva Tina Haase Findlay opens the show with surprise musical treats
  • Chocolaterie Stam’s available on grounds for purchase during picnics


FUN FACTS:  The 2016 shows feature a “starry starry night” line up of acclaimed local professional artists including:


  • Preshia Paulding, 2016 winner of 2 Best Actress awards at Wild Rose Film Festival, and winner of 2 prior Dionysos Best Actress awards from Des Moines Community Playhouse
  • Lorenzo Sandoval, 2016 nominee for Des Moines Community Playhouse “Most Outstanding Actor” awards
  • Matt Wiggins, 2016 lead in a film taking a “Best” at the Snake Alley Film festival




Terrace Hill Iowa Governor’s Mansion: www.terracehilliowa.org


Meanwhile, for a "blast from the past" enjoy the review below of Festival information from 2014...

ISE's annual outdoor summer Shakesperience Festival of the Classic Arts takes place "under the stars"
on various al fresco stages all across the Metro, with the Season's activities begining in April ...
...and culminating in mid June or July with our professional performance shows presented in true Repertory.
FREE Mainstage shows take place downtown at the glorious Riverside Amphitheatre, in a stunning European-style setting.
To celebrate our Fifth Anniversary, ticketed shows ($5-$15 plus various VIP seat selections) were started in 2013 in amazing venues like the Rollins Mansion Rose Garden - these shows will become an ongoing part of the Festival in future years! 
See below for more info!
Photo caption: Shows at ISE's Mainstage Home at Des Moines Simon Estes Amphitheater are ALWAYS FREE!  
Now presenting Summer-
in our new coooool month of June!
Your seat is ready and waiting...
Get your "SLISE of Summer" here!

Friday June 6: Family-Friendly Preview Showl Centennial Park, Waukee


Wednesday - Friday June 11- 13
Rain Date Sunday June 15

Detailed Schedule Below


Wow! ISE's "Tempestuous" - a music and dance graced original adaptation of one of Shakespeare's most famous Adventure Comedies is FREE on the Mainstage
So Don't Thou Miss it!


About ISE's 2014 FREE Mainstage Play:

A show that's been a hit for over 400 years!

Just be there for this truly charming story of the "4 r's" - Shakespeare style, that is!
We're serving up
Royalty, Romance, Revenge and Reconcilation --
oh yes, and one heck of a Stormy Sea!

A host of Shakespeare's famed magical and mytical characters...
Sprites, Fairies, Nymphs and enchanted Monsters
all welcome you to Prospero's famous Island --
where Wizardry and Love prevail!

This tale is the quintessential definition of midsummer madness and mayhem
- - breathtakingly told under the magnificent moon.

Its all the Shakespeare you remember ... told so freshly you'll never forget.

And of course, this show comes complete with ISE's hallmark infusion of dance-inspired interpretative touches 
and captivating live music moments,
featuring Al Greffinius Musical Guest Artist Marie Schmidt,MM,
fresh from her European tours.

Marie also appears nightly at Intermission to provide a Taste of Lyrical Opera Sampler,
courtesy of the Davis Brown Law Firm..

An imaginative tale set outside of time, this show will look enchantingly different from any other ISE show we've ever done -- 
and you simply have to see our interpretation of the famous Monster Caliban-
in our telling - a beast of 2 heads and 8 arms a legs -
With a decidedly Janus-inspired approach to its identify!

Our portrayal of Caliban features 2 of ISE's expanding Iowa Residency Artists:
Artists who have moved to our area specifically to engage on our stage - 
so catch them in Des Moines - while you can!

Learn more about ISE's one-of-a-kind interpretation at our Show Page - click menu on right or here!
Check out our venue info, guidelines, vendors
and tips for having an amazing night here!
And watch for ISE's new hospitality program - in Royal partnership with Miss Iowa!
Meanwhile, here is the current 2014 Mainstage schedule
(and did we mention: It's FREE!)
~FRIDAY JUNE 6 is our popular Family-Friendly "Will Call" Traveling show to the suburbs!  Traveling to Iowa's fastest growing city this year in association with the wonderful Waukee Arts Council, we'll perform along the meandering brook in Waukee's shady Centennial Park, where we'll be right in the center of things and where there is a natural hillside amphitheatre effect to ensure you have a great view!  The night's features include:
  • This show presents Act I of Tempestuous- after which we provide Q and A with the actors- and other activities as the crowd is up for them, such as (for Tempest) a chance for kids to interpret the famous Monster Caliban role (or maybe the Fairy Sprite role) for themselves! 
  • And since of course you WILL be clamoring to see how the show ends-  we provide all attendees with free admission to the Festival's Bronze-level VIP seating areas for any of the Mainstage shows in Simon Estes from June 11-13.  (Bronze level VIP seating requires you to bring your own chairs or blankets, and is available on a first-come, first-served basis.)

~ WEDNESDAY JUNE 11 is CASUAL PREVIEW SHOW NIGHT FOR TEMPESTUOUS: ISE's 2014 SHAKESPEARE UNDER-THE-STARS! MAYOR FRANK COWNIE AND THE CITY OF DES MOINES PRESENT the preview of Festival 2013, featuring ISE's "Tempestuous" at ISE's beautiful Mainstage in Simon Estes Amphitheater on the Downtown Des Moines Riverwalk.  For those who cannot make our regular shows, this is a special final Dress Rehearsal show that is fully open to the public, in a relaxed and casually-festive environment.  Gates open 6 for picnics. Remarks at 8, and as always at the Festival, Curtain is at approximately 8:15pm -coordinated with sun's dip down behind the sparkling skyline.  The night's features include:
  • ISE's 2014 CLASSICAL ARTS PRESENTATION:  Lyrical Opera Sampler, featuring works from Coloratura Soprano Marie Schmidt's European tour.  Presented during Intermission.
  • VIP Tent or Cafe Table seating is available at Midwestix.com.  Buy your tickets in advance at Midwestix for discount pricing; VIP tickets purchased at the door will be more expensive by about 20 percent, based on availability.
~THURSDAY, JUNE 12  is DATE NIGHT at SHAKESPERIENCE FEST!  It's opening night! ISE's Shakespeare-under-the-Stars presents "Tempestuous" at ISE's beautiful Mainstage in Simon Estes Amphitheater. Gates open at 6pm for picnics, Remarks start at 8pm, Curtain at about 8:15.  Nightly features include:
  • ISE's 2014 CLASSICAL ARTS PRESENTATION:  Lyrical Opera Sampler, featuring works from Coloratura Soprano Marie Schmidt's European tour.  Presented during Intermission.
  • FESTIVAL SEATING SPECIALS FOR DATE NIGHT AT SHAKESPERIENCE FEST: This is THE way to treat that special someone to what could be the most memorable date ever - a lush evening spent in true romantic style!  Check out the festival's VIP options below. Ensure availability and great advance purchase specials by reserving now at Midwestix.com- these exclusive options are quite limited!  (VIP tickets purchased at the door are subject to availability and based on availability, are about 20 percent more expensive than those purchased in advance.)
  • TENTS: Set up your own "pasha" tent with your throw pillows or rugs, and spread out your picnic in grand style in one of our private picnic tents high on the hill.  (Come down to special close-in VIP seating during showtime if you like- or enjoy your perfect Bird's eye view of the stage from your tent!)
  • CABARET TABLES: Get up close and personal right at stageside with your own stage-side cabaret table for two.  We've had engagements break out at the festival - and why not:  could there be an evening much more special than being so close to the stage that you can touch it- while savoring the Bard's extraordinary and gripping tales of love set against the sparkling slyline on the glorious Riverwalk! While they last, anyone can snag the great advance discounts that can be had on our gorgeous cabaret table seats or our stunning private picnic tents - just go to Midwestix.com. 
  • DATE NIGHT DOOR SPECIALS! Feeling oh so lucky?  On the night of the festival, come with a date and take a chance -print off a Date Night notice from the newspaper OR from this section of the website and bring it with you to show to an usher- - to inquire about our special door discounts (20% off) on any remaining tents or tables! 
~FRIDAY, JUNE 13 is YOUNG PROFESSIONALS NIGHT at SHAKESPERIENCE FEST!  Presenting Presenting The Passion of Othello, featured on our beautiful Simon Estes Mainstage.    Gates open at 6 for picnics, concert starts at 7:15, show starts at about 8:15 pm. Nightly features include:
  • ISE's 2014 CLASSICAL ARTS PRESENTATION:  Lyrical Opera Sampler, featuring works from Coloratura Soprano Marie Schmidt's European tour.  Presented during Intermission.
  • ART MARKET SHOWCASE OF EMERGING ARTISTS:  A tradition since our first year in our upper plaza, we present a charming bazaar and "grey market" show of the Metro's finest emerging artists, we are still in the process of finalizing this show for this year due to our new move to cooooool June.  Folks clamor for the delightful candlelight stroll during Intermission!
  • FESTIVAL VIP SEATING:  Support the Festival with a partially tax deductible VIP ticket and create the most memorable summer night while doing so!  VIP tickets purchased at the door are subject to availability and based on availability, are about 20 percent more expensive than those purchased in advance.)
  • FESTIVAL SEATING SPECIALS FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS NIGHT Let us treat you in style.  The BEST way to get great special seating at the Festival is to go NOW to Midwestix and reserve your own private pasha tent (tents hold 8-12 of your closest friends) or cabaret tables in advance, as this exclusive seating is limited- and advance purchases get great discounts.  [Cabaret and VIP tables are described above or at Midwestix.) But to take your chances at the door, watch for our Festival information to appear in any of the city's YP newsletters or websites and simply print off the information (or print off THIS paragraph!) and bring it to the gate for a 15% discount on door rates IF special seating remains.  Also, groups of 15 or more Young Professionals can email for FREE reserved group VIP seating - email RobinHeinemann.Pres@Gmail by by July 10 and put "Young Professional Reserved Seats" on the title line for GOLD level FREE seating.  Or for compimentary best-available Silver level seating, simply print out this notice and come to the gate with 10 or more YP friends and inquire!
~SUNDAY, JUNE 15:  RAIN (AND COLD) DATE Remember: the play goes on at the Mainstage no matter how hot it is- because it is always cool along the River when the sun goes down!    We will never relinquish our mission to try to serve the community for free if we can help it.  So if it rains (or is truly unseasonably cold) on one of our show nights, first be sure to check out our website weather page, because often we also have same-night indoor picnic-friendly shows in outstanding locations, such as the "Secret Castle" ballroom where we perform in front of stunning Renaissance tapestries by a gigantic stone fireplace.  But if it rains during the festival for either of our free mainstage shows, we may ALSO have an additional outdoor free show in Simon Estes on this "Raindate" nightBottom line is watch our Weather pages for more information (you'll find much more detail there) - if at all possible: an Iowa Shakespeare Experience show WILL go on!


We kicked off our 2013
Fifth Anniversary season with some brand new and utterly wonderful events; HIT shows destined to become a Metro traditions!


NEW AT THE FESTIVAL:  GREAT ESTATE SHOWS!  After the success of the 2013 Fifth Anniversary Rollins Mansion festival shows, and our last several years at Randleman House in Carlisle and Jordan House in West Des Moines, watch for ISE's significant experience with doing theatre in association with historic estates to expand.  We anticipate that as the Festival continues to grow in years to come, these shows will provide paid ticket revenue that will support the free central Mainstage.

About ISE's residency at  historic Rollins Mansion: The Rollins Mansion sits hit on a high overlooking downtown Des Moines, and boasts a magnificent view of the skyline as well as simply equisite Estate grounds just right for picnics. Comprised of beams that were imported from England (legendarily from an Inn where Shakespeare used to perform) Rollins Mansion also has an amazing tie to Shakespeare- indeed, the Mansion is perhaps the closest thing to an English Tudor Manse in Iowa. When in residence at the Mansion, ISE shows take place either in the Rollins Mansion "Rose Garden" (where shows accommodate an elite "up close and personal" intimate audience of 100-150 guests  -- or on the great lawn, where we provide several levels of seating.  Lawn seating is the least expensive seating level, providing a place to spread out under shady oaks on soft grass. Preshow, bring wine, picnics and picnic blankets or chairs and spread out across the shady lawn. Or let us treat you like Royalty: indulge in simply extrarodinary VIP picnic seating at our exclusive Kings and Queens tables (tucked away on a private Mansion balcony or in the sunken garden.)  At showtime, you'll be escorted to garden seating (special VIP Box seats for VIPs) directly within the amazing Rose Garden, where you'll relish an unforgeteable torchlit show by the fountain.  (Full special effect lighting and full sound, too!)

So your ticket assures you of "up close and personal seating" ...and a stunning summer evening for Date Night, Friends, or those special family members!  Its an evening of serene elegance not to be missed!
WEATHER:  Not to worry.  In the rare case of inclement weather. show (and indoor picnics!) will take place in the beautiful ballroom of the Mansion - a treat in itself!  See ISE's Weather pages for more information.

DIRECTIONS/PARKING:  Rollins Mansion is located south of downtown on Fleur Drive, with convenient parking on the grounds or via shuttle from directly across the street.  Check out www.RollinMansion.com for more info.
~ABOUT ISE's NEW CLASSICAL ARTS SHOWS: Upon the occaision of ISE attaining its fifth anniversary of free shows depsite Recession, floods and heat waves, ISE kicked off the second page of our ten year strategic plan - - we expanded our festival offerings beyond "just" Shakespearean theatre - -into offering samplers of all the other arts the Bard so greatly influenced, from Ballet to Poetry. In this way, we are aiming to grow over time into the midwest's largest al fresco classical arts festival west of the Mississippi, bringing the traditions of legendary festivals such as Chicago's Ravina, Massachusett's Tanglewood, or the Breckenridge arts festival to Iowa.  

So in  honor of ISE's milestone anniversary, we hosed out 2013 FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SHOW SPECTACULAL called Starry Starry Night: Ballet, Belin and The Bard! We kicked off our classic shows with a terrific partnership with Ballet Des Moines and Des Moines Civic Music Association (and the Belin String Quartet) --hailed in the press as a "Triumvirate" of the classical arts, all parties agree the show was a gigantic success!  We all look forward to continueing this collaboration in years to come - because if there is a better way to enjoy the classics than with a picnic basket under a starry sky, we haven't found it yet! 

Addditionally in Festivals to come, watch for special poetry nights or literary celebrations right along with full length dance and music concerts that celebrate all the classic art that Shakespeare embodies.  Moonlight madness, indeed! Its one heavenly taste of the season... so get your FREE slice of summer right here!
All of these shows point towards the Festival's vibrant future.  Indeed, these varied shows are entirely different evenings with one thing in common:  Thoust won't wanna miss any of it!  

So keep thine eye on ISE- and watch us continue to grow!

© 2018 Iowa Shakespeare Experience